DORA

The Williams County Courthouse is seen from the entrance to Jackie Blu’s on West Butler Street in Bryan. Jackie Blu’s and nine other establishments are included in a proposed downtown refreshment area in downtown Bryan, although the courthouse property is county-owned and would not be included.

After urging city council to reconsider the proposed map for an outdoor refreshment area in downtown Bryan, the Fraternal Order of Eagles will be included in the area.

When the Bryan Area Chamber of Commerce first brought the issue to council in March, the chamber’s initial map included the Eagles, as well as Myro’s Pizza and Bistro.

However, council members said they got feedback from area residents that the map was too large and ultimately pared it down to a version mostly confined to the properties immediately facing the downtown square, jutting out slightly to include Tacos Nachos and Father John’s.

But with council set to pass legislation to begin the application process on Monday, representatives from the Eagles stepped forward to seek inclusion in the Bryan DORA (Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area).

“… The Eagles needs something to stimulate business and funds for our donations,” said James Fenter, a Bryan resident, longtime Eagles member and chair of the Eagles Donation Committee.

Kevin McDougle, a longtime Eagles trustee, noted that the organization donates thousands to the community each year, including around $150,000 over the past 20 years to the Bryan City Schools assistance dog program and $20,000 just last year for the district’s new tennis courts.

He said being included in the DORA would help the Eagles expand existing fundraiser and perhaps begin new events. While the organization does sometimes host events in which it can serve alcohol outdoors, the state application process can be time intensive and somewhat pricey.

Council members had previously expressed regret that the Eagles wouldn’t be included in the DORA and, after getting advice from City Attorney Rhonda Fisher during the meeting, voted to move ahead with the project, with an amended map to include the Eagles property.

Council President John Betts cast the lone no-vote to proceed with the application. Betts was supportive of the Eagles’ inclusion in the DORA, but questioned the timing of the whole effort amid a pandemic in which the number of positive cases has grown in recent weeks both locally and statewide.

Council did make a concession with regards to the implementation of the DORA, which, according to the official proposal, would take effect at the start of the 2021 calendar year. It had been scheduled to go into effect as early as possible, pending state approval.

If approved by the state, a person of legal age may purchase a drink from an establishment within the DORA and would be exempt from open container laws and could therefore carry the beverage outside within the DORA, and into non-alcohol-serving establishments that opt in to the program. Businesses could also opt out and not allow alcohol on their premises.

By state law, the approved application must be published twice over a two-week period in a newspaper and the city must hold a public hearing regarding the subject.

Mayor Carrie Schlade said the notice will be published twice prior to council’s next meeting, on Aug. 17, and council agreed to schedule the public hearing for that day. Betts voted against the public hearing.

Schlade said she had been contacted by the Williams County Commissioners and stated on the record that the courthouse property is not included in the DORA since it is county-owned and a resolution outlaws alcohol consumption on the grounds.

Commissioners have previously expressed some interest in including the courthouse property in the DORA, but wanted the city to take action before considering moving forward.

Schlade also said that she had not heard from Myro’s ownership regarding its possible inclusion and that property remains outside the DORA’s boundaries.

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