It was interesting to read that during the Aug. 11 Hillsboro City Council meeting, council member Adam Wilkin said “many of the uptown business owners and our very own police chief are in support of this idea.”

"This idea," of course, being that of a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) application for the city.

Effective since 2015, Ohio law legalized the creation of DORAs in qualifying municipalities and townships with an update to the Ohio Revised Code, Section 4301.82 2022.

The DORA essentially draws a mapped-out district, typically within a downtown area, in which patrons 21 and over purchase alcoholic beverages from bars and restaurants and carry their drinks outside and within the DORA boundaries. Any person of legal age in a DORA carrying an open container of legally purchased alcohol from a DORA establishment is generally exempt from prosecution under the Open Container Law (ORC 4301.62 2016).

As a longtime business owner in the Hillsboro Historic District, I am wondering who those "many" business owners are and just how city council came to know their respective sentiments. Not one member of city government has asked my opinion. At least two neighboring business owners also have not been contacted by the city.

It would be an easy enough task for anyone to walk into all businesses in the proposed area and complete a simple survey.

However, since the city has its own survey – and such surveys most certainly qualify as public records in the same ORC that made the DORAs a reality – I'd appreciate a copy of the results of the city's survey.

According to Wilkin, “In simple terms, this would be a district that will make legal the ability to be outside within a certain area in the city with beverages sold by local establishments that contain alcohol. The city administration asked for this to be placed in committee for a couple of reasons. The main reason is to promote the walkability of our city. The district ideally will be located in such a way that would include the established restaurants we have, as well as other businesses and shops that are already here or that may come to Hillsboro’s uptown area in the future. The idea is to incorporate much of the uptown area within the DORA.”

Frankly, the idea of a DORA ought to include written statements from all those business owners who risk potential impact to their respective properties. To state that "many" business owners are in favor is simply too ambiguous.

For those in city government too young to remember the Hillsboro uptown business district half a century ago, I can offer a few recollections. At one time, within a city block of the Highland County Courthouse, there were half a dozen bars or restaurants plus the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aeries 1161 (which I joined in 1979 and was sworn in by Harry Hopkins).

In the summers of the early 1970s, I remember the Monday morning stories around my dad's office from the previous weekend's uptown escapades. While the city had no DORA in place at that time, it certainly had what may have been similarly described – much to the chagrin of local law enforcement.

In addition to the Eagles, the uptown establishments included: Penn's (a personal favorite), Jon's Cocktail Lounge (a close second), White's Bar & Grill (later North High Lounge and now, for a twist of irony, the site of the Hillsboro City Building), Scotties, the Double R (or Court Street Bar or The Dugout – it changed names more often than some joints changed dishwater) and the Carousel Lounge. Jim Christ's Christopher's Lounge came along not long after and may have acquired Jim Penn's liquor license, if memory serves. Then, there's was Richard's Bar on Main Street and The Pub, a joint down the alley between Main and Beech that most recently was a veterinary office. Down the road on Belfast Pike, there was the First and Last Chance or Friendly Tavern.

For full disclosure, I have frequented every one of those businesses. Perhaps Hillsboro had its own DORA long before state lawmakers jumped on the bandwagon in 2015.

Of course, there were caveats (God bless Jim Hardin; he always warned of those troublesome "caveats") with the uptown bar scene in the 1970s.

I recall business owners coming in extra early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to clean up the aftermath of the previous night's "entertainment" that was often deposited in front and/or behind their businesses. The backsides of businesses and uptown alleys endured considerable abuse, as they were used for various and sundry unwelcome deposits and leftovers.

It is unclear to me where the proposed Hillsboro DORA boundaries will be. In the immediate uptown area, I can only think of one place currently serving alcohol, and that's a private club. A new bar and restaurant is under construction on Main Street. Other liquor licenses may be outstanding. The city also has establishments blocks away from the uptown district that would certainly increase patrons' "walkability" – or stagger-ability, in some cases.

Would the DORA wind its way through current residential areas to include existing businesses on Dunlap Road, North West Street, North High Street and Harry Sauner Road? Or is the city anticipating a sudden influx of new uptown taverns?

According to a report by Ohio State University (, "If the local legislative authority approves the DORA, the ordinance or resolution that created the DORA must, as specified in Ohio Revised Code 4301.82(F)(1) Ensure the public health and safety is maintained within the DORA by including all the following items in the ordinance or resolution:

• The specific boundaries, including street addresses, of the DORA the number, spacing and type of signage that will designate the DORA;

• The DORA’s house of operation and the number of staff needed to ensure public safety within the DORA;

• A sanitation plan that will help maintain the appearance and public health within the DORA;

• The number of staff needed to carry out the sanitation plan;

• A requirement that beer and intoxicating liquor be served in some sort of plastic bottle or container within the DORA Temporary F Class permit holders that will operate within a DORA will receive a DORA designation from the Division of Liquor Control when the temporary permit is issued.

• If permit holders are subject to the same laws and rules as any other D Class permit holder and cannot block the ingress or egress to the DORA or any other liquor permit premises located within the DORA.”

Not to rain on the DORA parade, but if city council has such a large number of business owners in favor of this, let's get them on record now. I really do not want any whining a year or two down the road. I have no Red Dog (do they still brew Red Dog?) in this fight, but for all the youngsters in city government, I can tell you that uptown business owners who weren't selling booze in the 1970s and '80s had to deal with the consequences.

If Hillsboro wants a DORA, that's fine. Just let us know your plan – and our cost – to comply with Ohio Revised Code 4301.82. And, consider this a public records request for the "many" business owners in favor of the proposal.


Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press, Highland County's only locally owned and operated newspaper.