Back in 2020 there was a law created that allows local Michigan governments to create social districts, where permits are issued to designated groups of restaurants that hold liquor licenses. It allows customers to consume adult beverages in areas between the businesses in marked containers. As the weather warms up and people are encouraged to be outside when dining or drinking, this creates a fun atmosphere where people can safely gather.
Currently 39 Michigan cities have created social districts in 23 counties. Some places where you can currently participate in a social districts are Wyandotte, Northville, Mount Clements, Petoskey, Dundee, Saugatuck and Ludington.
The push for social districts might not have succeeded without the pandemic, said John McNamara, the vice president for government affairs at the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association. “If COVID-19 had not hit Michigan, I highly doubt social district legislation would have ever been signed by the governor,” he said. “This idea has been around for a while. However, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission was always pretty opposed to the idea,” McNamara said. “So it was more than when COVID hit and outdoor dining was being pushed, that was sort of the avenue that the Legislature took.”
You dine at an establishment, and when you are done eating you can take your drink with you and go shopping or browsing. These social districts have helped Michigan restaurants keep their head above water. The sad reality is restaurants in our state have seen their sales decline by 57%, that’s twice the national average.
The Executive Director of The Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce Gae Donovan-Wolfe says “she expects the city’s proposed social district, which still needs state approval, to draw patrons and business.”
Social districts are a tool to help the food and beverage industry survive. And it appears that customers are enjoying their new freedom to roam in their social district. More communities are expected to embrace this new way of socializing.
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