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Some oppose designated public drinking areas in Salem for one weekend

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Columbiana found success with legal public drinking areas this summer and Salem is considering it, but it might not be a good mix with one event

SALEM, Ohio (WKBN) – Salem is considering legalizing drinking alcohol in certain public areas but one group is firmly against it — for just one weekend.

It’s commonly known as a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, or DORA. It would allow public drinking for certain, preplanned days of the year.

Columbiana found success with it this summer but to participate, people can only buy the drinks at certain locations.

“From what I understand, it’s actually a plastic cup that’s of a particular color or it has been marked in some way so that the local police will know this is one that was purchased in an establishment that is participating in the DORA,” said Salem Mayor John Berlin.

The Salem Super Cruise has been around for a number of years. Gene Johnson, who runs it, is against DORA during the cruise weekend.

“We already have enough issues putting on this event each year and we don’t need another additional issue on this,” he said.

Some of those issues, Johnson said, are people hanging around in parking lots.

“Doing things they’re not supposed to be doing around cars and stuff. So it’s really hard for us right now, just to police what we have to do right now. So if you add this alcohol involved with it, it’s going to create a lot more problems on this.”

Every year, different religious food pantries come to support the event. Many of the church groups support keeping it alcohol-free.

“Church groups are pretty much the same way,” Johnson said. “Basically, if I walk away from it, they’ll walk from it also.”

So will many car owners. Johnson said 75% to 80% of them have already said they won’t attend.

“If you put a little scratch accidentally or something like that, what would happen to one of them? We’re talking about thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of repair.”

DORA must have preplanned dates before it’s enacted. Mayor Berlin said the ordinance is still in the early planning stages but they’ve heard Johnson’s opinion.

“There will be consideration given for not having the DORA on that particular weekend.”

Berlin said others have reached out to him as well.

“I’ve heard from other people that participate in the cruise event and also from other people that participate in events from other cities that it isn’t a good mix during that particular weekend.”

If the city does decide to pass the DORA Act, whether it includes the weekend of the cruise or not, the legal drinking location is planned for State Street between Ellsworth and Ohio avenues.

We tried contacting a few of the bars in the area but we haven’t heard back.

The next meeting on DORA is a public meeting with the Rules and Ordinances Committee. It’s happening Monday at 5 p.m. at city hall.

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