Outdoor dining, increased DORA hours just part of effort to help downtown merchants

After a long period of rebuilding, downtown Chillicothe is a source of pride for all of Ross County – one known throughout Ohio, particularly in the southeast corner of the state. So, when COVID-19 and the shutdown occurred, many wondered what could be done to help the businesses once they were given the green light to re-open.
Fortunately, Downtown Chillicothe and the Chamber partnered to help create two new initiatives – new outdoor dining rules and expanded hours for the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area – approved by the city administration to hopefully spur the return of visitors to the First Capital District.
The outdoor dining rules allow a restaurant to work with their neighbors to extend their outdoor dining area to the sidewalk in front of nearby businesses, while the new DORA rules will see it in effect from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Thursday through Saturday. Both rules will stay in effect until the end of the year.
The outdoor dining rules create an environment where restaurants/bars can partner with neighboring businesses to create extra tables to help the service industry cope with the decreased capacity issues created by the indoor dining restrictions. The Design Review Board gave approval to a table design to help keep the integrity of the look and feel of the district.
It’s our hope to help create more opportunities for downtown visitors to have a sit-down meal and spend some time in the district, which should help our businesses cope with the impact of the shutdown.
We’ve also worked with the Safety Service Director to create DORA hours each Thursday through Saturday through the end of the year, which we will use as a trial to see if permanent DORA hours are feasible. The increased DORA hours should help us draw more people downtown and allow them to sip and stroll as they want. Our Third Thursday events will hopefully create specific days to draw people for specific purposes while we wait for COVID restrictions to ease.
Tiffany Baldwin, the program manager for Downtown Chillicothe (and a member of the Chamber board), shepherded these changes through the process. We also added 10-minute parking spots, with the city’s help, reserved for diners who want to do carryout rather than dine-in at a restaurant.
A few other updates:
  • While the effort to make 2nd Street two-way has stalled along with the city’s revenues, it’s not dead. Two weeks ago, the Engineering Committee held a meeting on the effort and support for the change appears to be in place. Currently, the committee is waiting for the City Engineer to provide a more specific estimate on the project – likely to be with stop signs at the corner of Paint and 2nd, but potentially not with mid-block crosswalks – before they can proceed.
  • Along those same lines, parking meters on Paint and 2nd streets seem to be progressing and a longer term solution is also being explored. The city, which had the meters in storage, is awaiting legislation to place them on the streets.

As always, we’ll keep you updated.