Adults will now be able to drink outside in Uptown Oxford from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. all year round.
Under the designated outdoor cooling area (DORA), adults aged 21 and over can purchase alcoholic beverages in specially marked cups from bars and restaurants and drink them outdoors within Oxford DORA boundaries.
Oxford City Council unanimously approved a resolution permanently extending what had been a summer program on May 17. The DORA came into effect on May 22.
Oxford City Manager Douglas Elliott said that although implementation would begin this time around as a year-round measure, he would not hesitate to end it.
“It’s a pilot project,” Elliot said during the meeting. “If it’s a failure, we will quickly recognize it and put an end to it.”
Three high-ranking staff members from the University of Miami, who wrote a letter to the editor of The Miami Studenthas represented and discussed opposition to DORA throughout the year, calling on Oxford to give students who do not wish to participate in the consumption of alcohol a chance to experience Uptown without it.
However, the councilor Alexandria French disagreed with the perception that non-drinkers couldn’t enjoy Uptown with DORA in place.
“I don’t see DORA’s expansion into the school year as exacerbating this problem,” French said. “The reason students want to be on Brick Street is because they want to be on Brick Street, not to go drinking next to a family playing in the Uptown fountain.”
Although Councilor Amber Franklin voted in favor of the resolution, she raised a point against at the May 17 meeting.
“I was out just after Easter weekend,” Franklin said, “and there was a football tournament in town with parents and grandkids, and I don’t know how families will react depending on the type of drinking or how much public drinking there is.”
The decision was made as part of an economic development strategy to help local businesses, Deputy City Manager Jessica Greene said.
“From a tourism perspective, it’s about what you can do to get people to linger, get out and enjoy your community,” Greene said. “We have a great network of parks in our city and it’s a great place to get people to hang out and hang out, because when they hang out and hang out, they tend to spend more money. “
Public commentary for and against DORA’s year-round implementation was “fairly even on both sides,” Greene said. “There was a very concerned public comment (from a citizen) about the drinking culture in our community; there have been public comments in favor of DORA.
The Observer published a survey on the Facebook group Oxford Talk (OHIO) asking Oxford residents their opinion of DORA year-round.
Liz Krehbiel, an Oxford resident and University of Miami graduate from the Class of 2014, wrote that she didn’t think there would be a negative impact.
“I wouldn’t assume public intoxication would increase dramatically for students with DORA,” Krehbiel said. “I think it’s mostly a problem late at night when bars close or at off-campus parties where booze is readily available for free.”
Christy Capri, a member of Oxford Talk (OHIO) since September 2017, said she was on the fence about the idea.
“I have to wonder what our local law enforcement thinks about adding this burden to their plate,” Capri wrote.
Oxford Police Chief John A. Jones wrote in an email that he believed the year-round DORA program would not create problems.
“DORA has had very little impact on policing since its early days at Oxford,” Jones wrote. “I don’t foresee it being a big deal for us just because the students are here.”
“However, if we have any adverse effects, such as uncontrollable littering, disorderly conduct, or public disorder, I will be quick to report it to the city manager who can disable DORA,” Jones wrote.