Jess vs. DORA

My husband and I love to travel to New Orleans. The city is a smorgasbord of culture, history, food, music … and of course, Bourbon Street and its many purveyors of boozy bevies. We stay in a quaint shotgun house on Pauger, the street that Bourbon becomes as it winds out of the French Quarter.

DORA explorers can now enjoy First Fridays from someplace other than a bar stool.

My husband and I love to travel to New Orleans. The city is a smorgasbord of culture, history, food, music … and of course, Bourbon Street and its many purveyors of boozy bevies. We stay in a quaint shotgun house on Pauger, the street that Bourbon becomes as it winds out of the French Quarter. The neighborhood is quiet and lovely, as are the days we spend during our short week’s visit walking around, taking it all in.

Generally, our trips to NOLA have fallen in November, around the Thanksgiving holiday. So we’ve never “done” New Orleans for Mardis Gras, nor have we had the true Bourbon Street “experience.” You know the one: beads, booze, debauchery, et. al. Both of us have left our wild days behind us (well, at least for the most part). But walking around the French Quarter with a craft cocktail or a local brew is a delight. For us, those off-season NOLA nights are just the right amount of raucous.

But the real charm lies in the idea that you don’t have to sit in a dark room to enjoy an adult beverage, where the only “sights” to take in are the quirky hipster bartender, people-watching other patrons, and running out of things to say to your husband about the trip, because the trip so far has consisted of walking in and out of bars and restaurants. For those who like to partake, even a little, walking around and taking in the actual sights is so much more fun than staying glued to a bar stool.

I guess my love of strolling along, cup in hand, through the Quarter makes me predisposed to love the idea of Canton’s new DORA—or Designated Outdoor Drinking Area—which had its ribbon cut downtown at last month’s First Friday to great fanfare. And while there were the usual (and valid) concerns and comments—Safety! Trash! General mischief!—the whole occasion went off without a hitch, and was markedly more jubilant and crowded than even the sunniest August First Fridays around the HOF festivities.

The cost of the special cup (see sidebar) goes toward a combination of safety forces and clean up for, well, the fact that now we’re all drinking outside out of clear Solo cups and we’re going to need somewhere to put them.

The best part of DORA is that it will bring more people downtown, and everyone involved will benefit: Patrons will enjoy a unique experience, galleries and shops will see more traffic because there is potential for less time spent inside the bars, especially during First Friday and other events that are grounded in the arts, and the bevy vendors are going to sell just as much—maybe more!—than they had previously. In fact, several proprietors downtown have said already that they saw an increase in sales during First Friday, where most make their months. Some even ran out of cups as the evening progressed.

Downtown and the city in general are on an exciting trajectory (see: Market Square redevelopment plans, the City’s Master Plan and of course, HOF Village). DORA is a complement to such initiatives and further strengthens the center city as the core of commerce and culture here.

Does DORA require more responsible drinking? You bet. But intoxication is in the hands, literally, of the intoxicated. Let’s remember to be grown-ups and to make good decisions, and I think that DORA will make for one of the best summers in a growing list of fun times downtown.

What is it?
The DORA, which was unanimously approved by Canton City Council in April and only the third of its kind in Ohio, permits people to legally walk outside within specified boundaries with open containers of beer, wine and liquor.

How does it work?
Only patrons using the DORA “official cup” are permitted outside with an open container. The special cups can be purchased for $1 at approximately 20 bars and restaurants (to date) inside the area, though some establishments have chosen to roll the cost of the cup into the price of their drinks.

The designated area is contained to approximately 69 acres of land, bounded on the north by 6th Street N., on the west by McKinley Avenue, on the south by 4th Street S. and on the east by Walnut Avenue.

The cups are one-time-use only. So you dispose of them after you finish your drink, and then are free to enter another establishment to purchase another.

Patrons may walk freely within the DORA boundaries, seven days a week from noon to midnight, just keep an eye on the signs hanging on the light poles to ensure you’re not stepping out of bounds. And remember, you can’t bring your own drinks, you have to purchase the cups and beverages from one of the participating purveyors downtown.

For more information on the DORA, contact the Downtown Canton Special Improvement District at 330-456-7253 or the City of Canton at 330-489-3283.