By Sam Wildow
TROY — This week, council members debated suspending the city of Troy’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) during the Troy Strawberry Festival after organizers came to the city with another request to have it suspended during that time.
City officials asked the Troy City Council’s Community Partnerships Committee to consider a request of Troy Strawberry Festival, Inc. Board to suspend the city’s DORA during the Troy Strawberry Festival on June 3 and 4. The Community Partnerships Committee again recommended not to suspend the DORA.
The Troy Strawberry Festival, Inc. Board previously requested the council to suspend the DORA only on June 4, which the Community Partnerships Committee did not recommend. The request at that time was not approved by council.
“They’ve now requested the DORA be suspended both days. Previously, they were just asking for the suspension on the Saturday (June 4),” Titterington said.
Titterington went on to say the Troy Strawberry Festival committee has now decided they will not operate a beer garden on the north side of the levee. William G. Rozell, councilman-at-large and chairman of the Community Partnerships Committee, asked if the council had to do anything in regard to this action. Titterington said they did not.
“I look at this as an opportunity to really see what we can do,” Jeffrey Schilling, sixth ward council member, said. He recognized that operating the DORA with the influx of people during the Strawberry Festival would be a “challenge,” adding, “I think it’s a challenge the city of Troy can handle.”
Schilling said if the downtown gets 50,000 visitors during the festival and 10% of those visitors buy a DORA drink, then that is 5,000 DORA drinks that benefit the downtown businesses.
Titterington discussed options that city could do to emphasize the boundaries of the DORA during the festival.
“We’re still concerned. We’re still going to be watching closely,” Titterington said.
Law Director Grant Kerber spoke in regard to liability concerns, saying he did not see where there would be any liability that would fall upon the festival or the city, saying that neither the festival or the city would be providing the alcohol. Those participating in the DORA would be expected to follow the law in regard to the DORA, and those businesses serving DORA drinks would also be expected to follow the law, meaning they could not serve underage individuals, they could not over-serve individuals, and they could not serve inebriated individuals.
Linda Roth, chairman of the Troy Strawberry Festival, Inc. Board, spoke during the committee meeting, highlighting that the festival began as a way to fund-raise for non-profit organizations.
“It has always been known as a family-friendly festival, and in 2014, we expanded into downtown Troy to be more inclusive,” Roth said, noting they were trying to be more inclusive to visitors with accessibility concerns on the levee.
“The addition of alcohol at the festival has been discussed since 2013. We, as a festival, have always been told ‘no’ and that it would change the atmosphere of the festival. That all changed with the Strawberry Jam last year when the festival was allowed to have a permit and sell the alcohol,” Roth said.
Roth later went to say that, when the implementation of the DORA was being discussed, the festival organizers were told that the festival goers were not the target consumers for the DORA.
“We were told on numerous occasions that the DORA would be turned off for the festival,” Roth said. “We were told the festival attendees were not the target audience for the DORA and that our patrons might become rowdy,” Roth said. “When the citizens were asked to vote for the DORA, they were told that the DORA could be turned off for special events.”
Roth went over some of their concerns regarding the DORA staying in effect during the festival, saying the organizers had concerns that DORA sales would impact the sales of the non-profits.
Roth addressed liability, saying the festival is currently facing litigation from a patron who fell during the festival in 2017. She added that they are not against the DORA or the downtown businesses. Roth added that Tipp City suspended its DORA during the Mum Festival’s Car Show.
Kathi Roetter, executive director of the Troy Area Chamber of Commerce, said the festival was advised by an attorney that since the venue is signed over to the Troy Strawberry Festival, then the festival is liable for what occurs in the venue area.
Schilling asked the festival organizers to get more input from their attorney to bring to the council’s Community Partnerships Committee.
“It’s not going to be a black or white type of answer. It’s going to be more of a discussion on that,” Grant said.