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City council voted to reopen Oxford’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) for the third consecutive year, this time without a closing date. The resolution was approved unanimously at the council’s May 17 meeting.

The DORA encompasses six blocks uptown where restaurant and bar patrons can carry open alcoholic beverages from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. all days of the week. Drinks must be carried in marked cups. Previously, the area was only in effect during summer and winter breaks, when Miami was not holding classes and students were largely absent from Oxford.

City Manager Doug Elliott, Jr. proposed reopening the DORA without a set closure date after discussion across multiple city council meetings and a staff retreat. The area reopened May 22.

The resolution passed as a “pilot program,” which means Elliott can shut down the DORA at any time if issues arise, like an increase in littering or alcohol-related offenses. Oxford Police Chief John Jones will inform him if there are any significant increases in offenses by people using DORA cups.

Elliott’s confidence in the DORA’s success partly comes from an example set by the city of Kent.

“According to their police reports, the DORA has not had any impact on the drinking-related incidents either in the summer or during the academic year,” he said.

Kent’s DORA has been operative year-round since it started in 2020.

“We're similar communities,” Elliott said. “That's why we decided to basically go ahead and leave it open during the academic year. And of course, if we do have incidents such as underage drinking and noise, litter or whatever, I reserve the right to shut it down and I would report that to council, but we don't expect that to happen.”

City Councilor Glenn Ellerbe believes that extending the DORA will bring economic benefits to the town that can last throughout the year.

Ellerbe said the DORA will not only help Oxford economically, he also anticipates the DORA as a way to bring together students and the surrounding community. 

“That's another reason why I want to see the DORA start, is because I know that both adults and college age individuals will probably interact with each other, even if it's just looking at each other enjoying themselves in peace in the same Uptown district.”

According to Ellerbe, the end of the DORA during the school year caused Oxford to lose business to neighboring cities like Hamilton, where patrons can carry open beverages around all year round. 

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When considering Oxford residents in the decision to extend DORA, Ellerbe said most have been welcoming to the decision.

“It's actually been overwhelmingly positive. I want to call like an 80/20 ratio of Oxford residents wanting the DORA. [They’ve said], ‘I will now come uptown because it gives me a reason to come uptown.’”