Bowling Green considers DORA to boost business as COVID-19 crisis continues

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (WTVG) - In Bowling Green, workers at Sam B's Restaurant are prepping to serve customers again in a seemingly new world.

"It's really like starting over," owner Jim Ferrell said. "There have been so many changes we've had to make."

Since 1972, Ferrell has been a part of the BG staple and says he's never experienced anything like COVID-19.

"We're at about 20 percent of what we're normally used to doing," Ferrell said of business.

Fulfilling only carryout and delivery orders since mid-March, Ferrell says his crew is ready to welcome back diners again on Thursday under new safety guidelines. While he's hopeful for better business, Ferrell says recent talks of creating a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) in the city are more than welcome.

"I just think it's good for the city, and I don't think there's any downside for us," Ferrell said.

On Monday, mayor Mike Aspacher rehashed the idea with city council after COVID-19 stopped talks around it in February.

"We're just trying to be as helpful and supportive as we can," Aspacher said of helping businesses.

With a DORA, people can publicly consume alcohol sold from permitted bars and restaurants within a designated space in special cups. Given the current coronavirus crisis, Aspacher says allowing one in BG would bring in business while giving people room to roam.

"We do think that it's something potential that could benefit our downtown businesses, so we want to go with it," Aspacher said.

While it's only a dream for now, business owners like Ferrell say they'd like to see a DORA become a reality as they work to rebound from tough times.

"I think it is a good idea for downtown," Ferrell said. "I think it's a long time coming."

A DORA in Bowling Green is far from a done deal as leaders work to get businesses on board and make it happen within social distancing guidelines.

Aspacher says an application outlining all details for a DORA needs to be filed with the city and a public hearing also needs to happen. City council also has to have its say on the matter and ultimately give it the go-ahead.