Kent DORA suspended due to elevated COVID-19 risk level in Portage County


A DORA recycling bin outside Fresco Mexican Grill & Salsa Bar in downtown Kent. 

Nathan Mehring Reporter

Kent’s DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) has been suspended due to Portage County’s COVID-19 risk level rising to “red” (Level Three). The 33.25-acre area is “where alcoholic beverages may be sold by licensed liquor establishments for outdoor consumption,” according to Main Street Kent’s website.

When Kent’s DORA was approved in July, a unified task force, which includes Kent’s health commissioner, chief of police and city manager, decided that if Portage County goes into the “red,” the DORA would be suspended, said Heather Malarcik, executive director of Main Street Kent.

Malarcik said it is not likely Kent’s DORA will return in the very near future, especially as the weather gets colder. Kent Police Administrative Lieutenant Michael Lewis said the same.

“I don’t think you’ll see it again in 2020,” Lewis said. “I could certainly see it coming back in 2021.”

DORA’s success

Malarcik said Kent’s DORA allowed people to come downtown and feel comfortable doing so. This generated spikes in sales for downtown businesses, especially for those that sold alcohol, because of “to-go” drinks.

Lewis said, as far as policing went, there wasn’t any issue with Kent’s DORA. Malarcik said a survey was sent to downtown businesses 30 and 60 days into Kent’s DORA’s use. Participant responses ranged from saying DORA created a little extra business to saying it was incredibly helpful. 

“(DORA) was one of the greatest things that could have happened this summer,” said Matthew Wilcox, a manager at Ray’s Place. “It’s unfortunate, but I do understand that we don’t want to have people congregate if we don’t have this thing under control, so it makes sense.”

DORA’s absence

In DORA’s absence, Main Street Kent is using other methods to drive business downtown, including doing “local supporting local” promotions, focusing on Small Business Saturday and, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, having outdoor photo opportunities to promote businesses, Malarcik said.

Despite this, downtown businesses will still feel DORA’s absence, especially because they cannot use it during the last weeks of fall to make money that will help them through winter, Malarcik said. 

She said winter may result in some closures.

“We used to draw thousands of people downtown for events,” Malarcik said. “Now, we’re just really trying to focus on our locals and our people on campus to support these businesses, because if they’re not here, this town is just not Kent anymore.”

UPDATE: DORA will be reinstated on Nov. 1 in Kent.

Nathan Mehring is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]


Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.