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Stonefield could get outdoor drinking area for music series

The Shops at Stonefield’s Friday evening outdoor music series could soon allow open alcohol containers across most of the shopping center, if it receives a license from the state.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted to provide a letter of support for a designated outdoor refreshment area — or DORA — at the shopping center as it seeks a license from the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.

The live music event plans to start May 27 and run for 15 Fridays up to Sept. 2. It will feature a different nonprofit benefactor each week, and if the license is approved, patrons could carry and drink alcoholic beverages purchased on-site throughout most of the shopping center.

“The general manager from Stonefield informed us that the on-site traffic increased by 25% when they held Music on the Lawn — the point being, we will be helping existing businesses with additional foot traffic,” Albemarle’s Director of Economic Development Roger Johnson said as he asked the board to vote on the letter.

State law was updated in 2021 to add designated outdoor refreshment area licenses, which can be used for outdoor events that take place in a “downtown setting.” The events can span more than one block and may be planned for multiple days.

The law allows two types of DORAs — ones that have up to 16 event days per year where an application only needs to be submitted directly to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, and another for more than 16 event days where an ordinance needs to be in place in the locality.

Albemarle has not yet adopted an ordinance.

The ABC will only issue a DORA license to a locality, business improvement district or a nonprofit organization.

“The actual applicant themselves will be the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, which is a local organization here that helps all nonprofits, so there’ll be one applicant as opposed to 15 different applicants,” Johnson said.

The license has already been used in the area — the Town of Scottsville held the county’s first DORA events last year, and the Tom Tom Festival held an event last month on the Downtown Mall with a license.

Patrons who participate will have to stay in a designated area that will be marked by 18 sandwich boards signs. According to the public safety plan for the event, Champion Grill, Matchbox, Burger Bach, Burtons Grill and Torchy’s Tacos will be selling to-go alcoholic beverages in disposable cups, labeled with their name and address.

Supervisor Diantha McKeel suggested staff reach out to the residents of the apartments and condos in the Stonefield area and let them know about the DORA. She also said she had environmental concerns about disposable containers.

“I’m sure that asking them to make that sort of consideration will not be too much to ask,” Johnson said, of other types of cups.

Board Chair Donna Price said she was “totally supportive.”

“I really appreciate the innovation, looking for new ways to enhance the quality of life, the fun and as we saw substantially increase the traffic flow in business to those shops that are there, which after the pandemic we especially need,” she said.


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