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Cleveland City Council approves plan to create outdoor drinking area on East 4th Street

The $1.65 million plan would include creating the city's first designated outdoor refreshment area (DORA).

CLEVELAND — As downtown Cleveland business owners continue to work their way back from the COVID-19 pandemic, city council has approved a proposal that could reenergize the pivotal East 4th Street corridor. 

During Monday's meeting, Cleveland City Council signed off on a $1.65 million plan that will create the city's first designated outdoor refreshment area (DORA). Patrons on East 4th Street will soon be able to purchase alcoholic beverages from participating restaurants and freely move around the DORA with their drink. 

The state of Ohio approved the creation of DORAs in 2015 and several cities, including Akron, Canton, and Shaker Heights, have utilized them. "Throughout Ohio DORA’s have proven to be economic drivers and destination definers in large cities and smaller towns and yet Ohio’s most vital city has yet to share in these success stories," the proposal to council read.

The plan was presented to the Cleveland City Council's Development, Planning and Sustainability Committee last week by Ari Maron, a partner at MRN Ltd, which owns the East 4th Street development property. In his opening remarks, Maron emphasized the importance of getting the downtown area recharged amid a changing post-COVID world.

"We're facing the biggest challenge we've faced downtown since I've been doing this 23 years," Maron said. "This is about a fundamental shift that we're seeing across the country in terms of people working from home. Unfortunately, we're seeing a trend back to the suburbs that we haven't seen in 20 years. This is the environment we're in."

The arrival of a DORA on East 4th Street would allow restaurants to remove the fencing that surrounds its patios, replacing it with planters. "It becomes a much more friendly environment for people to use," Maron explained. 

In addition, the proposal calls for a new valet system where the drop-off point will be on Prospect Avenue and the pick-up area will be on Euclid Avenue. The existing valet area would turn into a "pocket park," that will feature pop-up merchants, a canopy, drop-down swings, and public art.

Credit: MRN Ltd./Jenny Sabin Studio

Funding for the proposal is coming from reserve tax increment financing (TIF) plus money from MRA Ltd. 

Cleveland City Council will still have to approve legislation for the creation of the DORA. Once council gives its authorization, the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Liquor Control must approve the city's application.

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