Op-ed: Sip & Stroll on iconic Monmouth Street

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Written by Newport City Commissioner Mike Radwanski

At the publicly held Board of Commissioners retreat earlier this year, we discussed exploration of an Entertainment District DORA. With an input session scheduled on July 11th for both business owners and residents who reside on Monmouth Street, I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts and some research I did on the topic. First, you might be asking yourself what a DORA is and no, it has nothing to do with the TV show Dora the explorer. Though the show aired in the year 2000, she would be 30 today. If Dora ventured to Newport, she might very well be interested in sipping an alcoholic drink while strolling through our shops. Or she might be interested in taking her alcoholic beverage from one restaurant to another. DORAs provide the legal means to carry an open alcoholic drink within a defined district during set times of the day and or evening. They can be established for both temporary special events or have a permanent fixed day and time schedule.

Now for the fun part. Let’s look at some data! In addition to collecting feedback from some Monmouth Street business owners and residents, I contacted a neighboring City to explore their experience. Their input was valuable and allows us to utilize what they learned to our advantage. I also researched other cities both near and far within the Mid-West and looked at the following criteria in my search:

  1. What percentage of cities with DORAs have them in historic areas?
  2. Are the DORAs near city parks?
  3. Do the DORAs reside only in central business districts?
  4. Do the hours of operation of the DORA differ from weekday to weekend?
  5. If available, how many city blocks were in the DORA?
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Below is a visualization I put together via Microsoft Power BI which illustrates my findings: Note that I included the DORA currently in place at Newport on the Levee.  

In addition to researching DORAs, I also reached out to the Governor’s office to see if they had any data on arts and culture entertainment districts. My cold call did yield some useful data that I have provided below via Microsoft Power BI. Upon reviewing the different cities and their programs, I concluded that Newport is fortunate in that we already have entertainment venues such as Southgate House and Ovation nearby. We also have several festivals throughout the year so, attracting culture to our city isn’t as big of a problem compared to other smaller urban centers. Do I think a DORA would help attract more art venues or more restaurants with live music? It certainly wouldn’t hurt. If we can take measures to increase foot traffic in our small businesses, we should do what we can within a reasonable measure to foster economic prosperity. The data below also shows that more cultural destinations lead to an influx of revenue brought into a city as well as jobs. Both would provide additional benefits in the way of self-reliance. All aspects that were part of the approved City of Newport’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan.

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