Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area returns in November


City of Oxford

Oxford residents enjoy drinking and dining on the grass of Uptown Park, during last summer’s DORA pilot program.

By Katherine Bukowski

Oxford City Council voted Nov. 3 to reopen its Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area from Nov. 27 through Jan. 22, which will allow people to stroll through parts of Uptown with cups of alcoholic drinks. 

The 5-1 vote reopens the program for the second time since it was adopted earlier this year. A pilot program during the summer was deemed successful and proponents say it is an effort to spur people to go Uptown and patronize local businesses that have suffered lost business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sign making a boundary of the DORA, Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, Uptown.
Street signs Uptown mark the boundaries of the DORA. Photo provided by the City of Oxford

The program outlines several streets Uptown in which residents and visitors could purchase alcoholic beverages from participating businesses and carry the drinks outside. The DORA was in effect during the summer until Miami Students returned to campus in the fall. 

DORA will run from Beech Street east to Campus Avenue, and from Church Street south to Walnut Street. Drinks have to be purchased in the area in specially designed cups and the vendors are responsible for checking IDs to make sure purchasers are of legal drinking age.

Map shows boundaries of the DORA, running from Beech Street to Campus Avenue, and from Church Street south to Walnut Street.
This overlay map shows the boundaries of the DORA — Beech Street east
to Campus Avenue, and from Church Street south to Walnut Street. Map provided by
the City of Oxford.

Jessica Greene, the assistant city manager, said that the businesses and map will remain the same as it was in the summer. The pilot program was every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

“We are looking at other winter programming to stimulate the local business economy along with DORA,” Greene said. “Our other approach is going to engage people in town and bring people in over winter to support local businesses.”

Greene said the program was an overall success for businesses that participated. This program is also to benefit residents and visitors and will be monitored closely by the City Council. 

“I do think between the Chamber, Enjoy Oxford and the City of Oxford, we are doing everything we can to help promote our local businesses and hopefully create an Oxford Winter Wonderland to drive more business into town while the students are gone to help with that traffic flow of business,” Kelli Riggs, president of the Oxford Chamber of Commerce said. 

Vice Mayor William Snavely was the lone dissenter to reopening the DORA during the winter break, noting at the council meeting that the city is trying to discourage large gatherings to prevent the spread of coronavirus and that many Miami students who live off-campus will still be around Uptown during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

While anyone of legal drinking age can walk around in the DORA with a drink in hand, the city does not want to encourage crowds of students to be drinking and purposely schedules the DORA for periods between Miami’s semesters.

“We will be watching it closely. We will be expecting [students] to follow the rules,” Doug Elliott, city manager, said during the council meeting. “If it gets out of hand we will shut it off for a day or two. But I think we all agree we have got to do what we can to help our restaurants and other businesses during this long, cold winter. Some of them are really facing difficult times.” 

The program is something that the city council could consider to keep year-round, Greene said. Amendments can be made to the DORA ordinance about what businesses are involved, what streets the program spans and dates/time limits in the future. Participating businesses and more information can be found on Enjoy Oxford and the City of Oxford websites.