DORAs authorize municipal corporations and townships to establish designated areas where beer and intoxicating liquor containers purchased from a designated establishment can be consumed at different locations within a defined footprint. Codified under Ohio Revised Code 4301.82, the act allows the executive officer of a Municipal Corporation or the fiscal officer of a Township to submit an application to the corresponding Legislative Authority to establish a DORA. There is not a standardized application that Ohio requires, however the state does map out the essential components of the application and process to create the area.

On Wednesday, December 8, 2021, the Ohio House passed Senate Bill 102, which made a number of updates around liquor laws in the state of Ohio, including expanding the criteria for use of Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas (DORAs). These changes simplify the eligibility criteria for implementing DORAs and expand the use of DORAs in downtowns.

Major overarching changes in Senate Bill 102 include:

  • Divides outdoor refreshment areas (DORAs) into two population categories (municipal corporations and townships [local communities] with a population of 50,000 or less and those with more than 50,000) instead of three as in current law (35,000 or less; 35,001 to 50,000; and above 50,000).
  • Increases the allowable acreage of a DORA from 320 acres to 640 acres for communities with a population of 50,000 or more.
  • Increases the allowable acreage of a DORA from 150 acres to 320 acres for communities with a population of 50,000 or less.
  • Increases the number of DORAs allowed in a local community of 50,000 or more from 4 to 6.
  • Increases the number of DORAs allowed in a local community of 50,000 or less from 2 to 3.
  • Reduces the number of qualified permit holders that must be included in a DORA created in a local community with a population of 50,000 or more from six to four and communities with a population of 50,000 or less from four to two.


Communities with a strong sense of place and livable downtowns drive commerce to quaint storefronts and locally owned restaurants and create a place where people want to be. As the desires of existing residents, future residents and tourists have been shifting over the years to live in communities that have a unique identity, community leaders and stakeholders should be looking for ways to build lively, walkable, and livable downtowns that will attract small business owners and entrepreneurs. With employers recognizing and embracing the remote workforce, people increasingly have the freedom to live where they want to and not where they need to. The best talent flocks to communities where the sense of place is evident and desirable making the importance of vibrant downtown business districts unquestionably important.

A brief overview of the DORA program and application requirements is outlined below. When the executive officer of the municipal corporation or fiscal officer township files an application with the legislative authority, the executive officer or fiscal officer shall ensure that the application contains all of the following:

  1. A map or survey of the proposed outdoor refreshment area in sufficient detail to identify the boundaries of the area, which follow the guidelines noted above for communities of 50,000 or more and 50,000 or less.
  2. A general statement of the nature and types of establishments that will be located within the proposed outdoor refreshment area.
  3. A statement that the proposed outdoor refreshment area will encompass not fewer than four qualified permit holders for populations of 50,000 or more and not fewer than two for populations of 50,000 or less.
  4. Evidence that the uses of land within the proposed outdoor refreshment area are in accord with the master zoning plan or map of the municipal corporation or township.
  5. Proposed requirements for the purpose of ensuring public health and safety within the proposed outdoor refreshment area.


Upon approval of the application by the legislative authority: the territory described in the application constitutes the outdoor refreshment area; the legislative authority is required to provide to the Division of Liquor Control and the Investigative Unit of the Department of Public Safety notice of the approval of the application and a description of the area specified in the application; and the Division of Liquor Control, as soon as possible after receiving notice of DORA approval, will issue a DORA designation to each qualified permit holder located within the refreshment area that is in compliance with all applicable ORC Chapter 4301 and 4303 requirements.


Permit Holders

Qualified permit holders for an outdoor refreshment area means the holder of an A-1, A-1-A, A-1c, A-2, A-2f, or D class permit issued under Chapter 4303 of the Ohio Revised Code. “D class permit” does not include a D-6 or D-8 permit.  F-Class Permit: If an outdoor refreshment area has been created in accordance with ORC 4301.82, the holder of the F-class permit that sponsors an event located in the outdoor refreshment area may apply to the Division of Liquor Control for issuance of an outdoor refreshment area designation. The division shall issue such a designation if the division determines that the permit holder is in compliance with all applicable requirements established under ORC 4301 and ORC 4303. An F-class permit holder that receives a designation under this division shall do both of the following:

  1. Comply with all laws, rules, and regulations that govern its type of permit, and the applicable public health and safety requirements established for the outdoor refreshment area.
  2. Not block ingress or egress to an outdoor refreshment area or any other liquor permit premises located within the area.


DORA Limitations

The creation of an outdoor refreshment area is limited as follows:

  1. A municipal corporation or township with a population of more than fifty thousand (50,000) shall not create more than six outdoor refreshment areas.
  2. A municipal corporation or township with a population of less than or equal to fifty thousand (50,000) shall not create more than three outdoor refreshment area.
  3. The maximum DORA size for qualifying cities and townships is 640 contiguous acres. Cities and townships under 50,000 residents may create a DORA, but only if the area includes at least two establishments which are ‘qualified permit holders’, and the maximum size is 320 contiguous acres.

Many communities across Ohio are implementing DORAs to drive economic development priorities and enhance the vibrancy of downtown business districts. With the changes to Ohio’s DORA program, there has never been a better time to establish a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area in your community.

For more information on changes to the DORA program, contact Jamie Beier Grant at The Montrose Group at jbgrant@montrosegroupllc.com or (419) 707-0164.