Noblesville Common Council introduced to designated outdoor refreshment area ordinance


The Noblesville Common Council met April 9 at City Hall, where it discussed an ordinance establishing a designated outdoor refreshment area, or DORA.

According to city officials, a DORA is a designated area where patrons 21 and older can purchase alcoholic beverages in a marked container from participating establishments and carry them within the district.

Noblesville’s Community Engagement Manager Aaron Head presented the proposed ordinance to the council.

“Essentially, (it) is the limited ability to carry alcoholic beverages outdoors in a designated area,” Head said. “You can go into a bar or restaurant, order up to two drinks and carry those out into (the designated area) to enjoy your beverages as you shop, dine and stroll around our downtown.”

Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, and nine communities in Indiana have established DORAs. According to Head, the City of Noblesville, along with partners and organizations, first lobbied the state of Indiana to adopt DORA legislation in 2021.

“In 2023, the legislation became state law, enabling municipalities to adopt DORA ordinances,” Head said. “Since that time, we’ve worked through what our ordinance looks like.”

Head said there are many benefits to DORAs, including a boost in tourism and foot traffic, new revenue for local restaurants and bars, increased revenue and spending in retailers, and an easier process for organizations hosting downtown events in the DORA.

“Any time we try to enact new things in our downtown, we are doing that to try to benefit our businesses, to attract people to our community to support our small businesses,” Head said. “The ability to sip, shop and stroll is what we look at as the identity of what we establish with this type of district.”

As part of the DORA ordinance, Head said several regulations will be put in place, including:

  • In effect from noon to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the weekend
  • Beverages must be served in a specifically designated plastic cup with DORA branding
  • A maximum of two beverages can be served at a time
  • Beverages must stay within DORA boundaries
  • DORA beverages can not be carried back into a restaurant or bar
  • Signs must be posted at foundries as well as within a business serving beverages
  • Other retailers can display signs indicating whether or not beverages may enter their business

Head said there will also be beverage regulations set in place in accordance with state regulations, including

  • Beer or flavored malt beverages: up to 16 ounces
  • Wine, cider or a premixed cocktail: up to 12 ounces
  • Liquor or liquor-based cocktails: up to 10 ounces, including up to 2 ounces of liquor

Ten businesses have agreed to be designated permittees, and Head anticipates more will sign up. If a business wants to sign up, it will go before the council as a resolution to the ordinance in the future.

The next common council meeting will be at 7 p.m. April 23, during which the DORA ordinance will be given a second reading. If approved, the ordinance will be submitted to the State of Indiana for adoption.

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