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Toledo answers 10 of our biggest questions about Fort Wayne's first DORA Downtown

How have DORAs played out in other cities? How do you get people to follow the rules without wreaking havoc on Downtown? And what happens to all those plastic cups?
Toledo answers 10 of our biggest questions about Fort Wayne's first DORA Downtown
Fort Wayne's first Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) Downtown goes into effect on Cinco De Mayo, 7 a.m.-3 a.m. daily.

Fort Wayne's first Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) Downtown goes into effect on Cinco De Mayo, 7 a.m.-3 a.m. daily. This means: You'll soon be able to order drinks on The Landing and carry them all the way to Parkview Field (or vice versa). See a map and rules here. (Another DORA is already underway in Fort Wayne at Electric Works, but not open yet. Indiana allows cities to have up to seven.)

So far, 19 establishments are signed up to participate in the DORA Downtown, including: The Landing, Botanical Conservatory, PNC Plaza, JK O'Donnell's, Dash-In, Pint & Slice, Tolon, Copper Spoon, The Side Car, Mercado, Papi's Pizza, Nawa, Próximo, Ted’s Snacks & Bar, Night Train, Dana’s, Bistro Nota, The Porch Off Calhoun, and Marquee.

"The DORA is poised to benefit local businesses, particularly restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues in the designated area," a press release says. "It will increase revenue due to higher foot traffic and longer stays. It is expected to attract new businesses and investment, catalyzing Fort Wayne's economic vitality."

So how have DORAs played out in other cities? How do you get people to follow the rules without wreaking havoc? And what happens to all those plastic cups?

While each city and state may handle DORAs differently, there are things we can learn from others' experiences.

We spoke with Betsy Ujvagi with ConnecToledo who acts as Administrator of a Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area (ORA) in Toledo, Ohio, to answer 10 of our biggest questions. (Differing information we have about Fort Wayne's DORA is marked with an *).

1. When did Toledo's two ORA districts go into effect, and how has the process gone so far?

BU: The Adams Street ORA and the Downtown ORA are run by two separate entities. The Adams Street ORA went into effect in 2016. The Downtown ORA launched in 2017 and was expanded in 2020. The process has been fairly smooth.

*Fort Wayne has two DORAs underway so far: one Downtown and one at Electric Works, which will also be separately managed, but likely use coordinating cups and signage, etc.

2. Do you have any metrics to show the ORA's effectiveness at boosting business Downtown?

BU: The way our ORA is run, we purchase cases of the branded cups and sell them to the individual restaurants and bars, so I don't have direct knowledge of how much revenue it generates per business. We average 150-175,000 cups sold per year.

3. Have you had any issues with violence, disorderly conduct or an uptick in police presence Downtown since the ORA went into effect? If not, what do you think has contributed to safety?

BU: We have not had any noticeable uptick of issues surrounding violence or disorderly conduct. The police presence was already adequate inside the ORA borders, and the establishments as well as law enforcement are well aware of the rules which need to be enforced. It is a great program for Downtown stakeholders, and everyone is invested in seeing it succeed.

4. Have you experienced any issues with citizens sneaking cups home with them and refilling them with their own drinks, rather than purchasing beverages each time they visit the ORA?

BU: Because the borders of the ORA include a number of apartment buildings, I am sure that this must happen, but it is not enough of an issue for us to have noticed any problems with it. Each cup needs to be disposed of prior to entering another establishment, but we cannot stop anyone from taking them home.

5. Have you had any issues with citizens leaving the ORA district with drinks (intentionally or unintentionally)? If not, what has helped the process go well?

BU: We have not noticed a significant issue with this. There are signs posted along the borders of the ORA, and the map is included on our website. We also have posters which are distributed to each establishment in the ORA, which lists the participants and includes the map. We also hand out placards to the hotels Downtown to include for their guests. Trash receptacles are strategically placed along the ORA border, as well.

6. Tell us about the cups used in Toledo's Downtown ORA and how they are disposed of or recycled?

BU: The cups used for Toledo ORA are at their end-use. Our Downtown Ambassador team is charged with cleaning up waste from the ORA program.

*Fort Wayne's cups are single-use, but recyclable, and Downtown is partnering with Brightmark to recycle them. But as we've previously reported, recycling itself is not always effective. Some locals are already calling for compostable or aluminum cups instead of plastic in Fort Wayne.

7. Have there been any unexpected benefits and/or challenges with the ORA you've implemented?

BU: An unexpected benefit of the program has been the opportunity for further activation of Downtown spaces. Now that the ORA is in place, we do not have to put up fencing for individual events, providing a new ease of use. While we anticipated the ORA program would include a lot of "bar hopping" (which it does), it has made larger Downtown events much easier, which is an unexpected positive.

8. Does Toledo plan to implement more ORAs?

BU: Our state limit at this time is two per city, so no, Toledo will not implement more ORAs. Both Downtown and the Adams Street ORA have room to expand their borders.

*As previously noted, Indiana allows cities to have up to seven DORAs, and Fort Wayne has two underway.

9. Did Downtown have to increase its staff to manage the ORA?

BU: It has added to the Block by Block workload, but the administrative staff level has not changed.

*Downtown Fort Wayne will manage Fort Wayne's DORA, and it does not plan to hire additional staff.

10. Any advice you would give Fort Wayne as it prepares to implement its first DORA?

BU: The Outdoor Refreshment Area has added a unique layer of opportunities for partnership and activation throughout Downtown. Make use of it, find ways to activate it, grab a drink and have fun!