Points to consider in favor of creating a DORA
There have been questions and concerns regarding the designated outdoor refreshment area for downtown Tiffin. I believe some of this stems from a lack of information, and as the Downtown Main Street manager representing our downtown board and more than 50 volunteers on our committees who support this initiative, I would like to take this opportunity to respond.
First, it’s important to say that the DORA is being created primarily to support the downtown businesses with increased foot traffic and to allow for outdoor seating on our narrow sidewalks. At this time, restaurants with a liquor permit that would like to have outdoor seating are required by law to fence or rope off an area adjacent to their building. We do not have wide-enough sidewalks to accommodate those barriers.
The business and property owners have been investing a lot of money and time into making downtown Tiffin a destination. Now, the owners of our restaurants and bars are willing to put forth the additional cost to purchase seating and are asking for our support to allow this to happen. Outdoor seating creates a welcoming atmosphere within the downtown.
Next, please know that it is not our intention for the DORA to be a party in the street. We have high-quality restaurants and bars within the downtown that have well-trained employees, and those establishments would not risk losing their liquor license by selling to someone who is visibly intoxicated. This is simply an effort to continue to enhance our downtown.
Third, our downtown committees have taken a significant amount of time to investigate the 13 other communities around the state of Ohio that have a DORA in place. Instead of seeing any problems, they are experiencing positive economic benefits from having the district in place. Worthington reports a 10-percent to 15-percent increase in sales due to the implementation of the DORA in their community. We already have downtown Tiffin businesses that are talking about expanding their hours to match that of the DORA if it is approved.
Fourth, there is a lot of community support for a Tiffin DORA. An online survey about the implementation of a DORA had more than 620 responses. Of those, less than 10 percent were against the idea, while more than 90 percent were either neutral or in support of it. Also, the owners of The Renaissance, MST Pub and Grub, Clover Club, Tiffin Pedal Co., The Laird Arcade Brewery, Phat Cakes and Bilger’s Lawn and Landscape have either written letters or spoken about their support of this district and the potential benefits it will have on their businesses and our community.
Last, in some other communities, DORA hours start earlier in the day to allow the businesses lunch and dinner opportunities for outdoor seating. Business owners in other communities have said they would not have invested the money in outdoor furniture if they had not been given the opportunity to serve lunch and dinner outside.
Tiffin has made a compromise to the DORA hours to accommodate the concerns regarding students that have open lunches within the downtown by changing the proposed hours to 4-11 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday. We applaud the city council and administration for working together to try to address concerns.
In summary, we believe that after more than a year of research, the board and committee support of our Main Street program, the citizen support provided in our survey, the business support provided in letters and testimony to city council, and the positive track record of 13 other communities without any negative impacts provide a strong argument in favor of implementing a DORA.
We know not everyone will agree, but we also know city council can revoke it at any time, so that gives us comfort as a community. We want to create an environment that people want to visit. We want to make downtown Tiffin a destination! If the DORA hinders us in that pursuit, we will be the first to ask for its removal.
Amy Reinhart is Downtown Main Street manager for Tiffin-Seneca Economic Parternship.