West End update – Nate Heffron – city of Negaunee

City of Negaunee looking to being ‘social’

Nate Heffron, city manager, city of Negaunee

NEGAUNEE — Generally I take a different approach when updating my readers about new happenings here on the west end.

However, something new, out-of-the-box, and potentially controversial could be coming to downtown Negaunee. I am not writing this to gain your support, but rather to inform you and what might be coming.

Recently, the State of Michigan enacted a new law intended to spur economic activity and provide flexibility for hospitality businesses by enabling the on-site sale and off-site consumption of alcoholic beverages in designated “Social District” areas.

Eligible Licenses (bars, restaurants, etc.) who wish to participate are granted a Social

District Permit by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, permitting them to sell alcoholic beverages on their licensed premises to customers to consume in the Commons Area.

“Commons area” means an area (one or more) within a social district that is clearly designated and clearly marked by the municipality.

Practically speaking, the qualified licensee would sell an alcoholic beverage to the consumer who could then walk to and consume the beverage in the commons area, only. The consumer is not allowed to take the beverage out of the commons area or into any business.

Negaunee’s DDA is proposing the possible establishment of a Social District to support local restaurants, microbreweries, bars, and similar food service businesses; sustain and grow economic development; supplement outdoor social distancing during pandemics that may occur; and for increased economic capacity.

To showcase the proposed Social District and to obtain public input on the issue. The Negaunee DDA will hold a special meeting on May 16th, at 5:30 p.m., at the Negaunee Ice Arena.

At this meeting the DDA will hear how the Social District will be managed through its state-mandated

Management and Maintenance plan.

Here are some common questions and answers to help better understand this issue.

Q1. Where would Negaunee’s Social District be, if approved?

A1. The proposed district includes all of Iron Street, most of Rail Street, parts of Tobin, Marquette, and Gold Streets, several downtown parking-lots (when

signed), and several parks connected to the downtown area (where signed).

Q2: If approved, where can alcohol be consumed within the district?

A2: Only in the “Commons Area”. In Negaunee’s case this would mean public sidewalks, closed for events streets, closed for events public parking lots, and some public parks.

Q3: Can I bring my own Alcohol downtown?

A3: No, you must purchase alcohol from an approved, licensed businesses. Carrying an unapproved, open container of alcohol in public is an offense under MCL 257.624 or/and MCL 436.1915.

Q4: Will the Social District only be for special events?

A4: No, it will be year-round, Monday-Sunday, from noon to midnight. The current state law does not just cover special events only.

Q5: What liability does the city have?

A5: None, except to enforce the law were practical. Approved licensed businesses must not overserve patrons and will be responsible for such actions or other violations. Patrons will also be held responsible for their actions under the law.

Q6: Is their limit on how much alcohol I can have at one time?

A6: Yes, you may only have a 16-ounce cup at one setting while in the Commons Area. No glass is permitted, only plastic. All cups must be issued by an approved licensed business.

Q7: Can I take my approved cup into a business or another bar?

A7: No, you may not take your cup into any other bar or other business within the Social District. The contents of the cup must be consumed within the Commons Area only.

Q8: Can service clubs, private clubs, or non-profit organizations obtain a license to serve alcohol within the social district?

Q8: No, unless a bar and restaurant are holders of Class C, Tavern, A-Hotel, B-Hotel, Club, G-1, G-2, and Brewpub licenses as well as licensees with on-premises and off-premises tasting rooms.

Q9: If a business is issued a license to serve within the Social District, what does that mean?

A9: A social district permit would allow the permittee to sell alcohol for consumption within the confines of a commons area as long as the permittee only sold and served alcoholic liquor on its licensed premises and only served alcohol to be consumed in the commons area in a container meeting all of the following: (a) It is not glass. (b) Its liquid capacity does not exceed 16 ounces. (c) It prominently displays a logo or other mark unique to the commons area. (d) It prominently displays the permittee’s trade name or logo or some other mark unique to the permittee under its on-premises license.

Q10: Who determines whether or not the law is broken within the district.

A10: The Negaunee Police Department, other police agencies, and that Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

Q11: How will I know if I am in the Social District and Commons Area?

A11: The city must define and clearly mark the Social District and the Commons Area with signs, some signs will include maps.

Q12: Will there be extra restrooms available?

A12: Yes, the DDA will add restrooms (porta johns) in several areas of Downtown when necessary.

Q13: Who is responsible for my cup once it’s in my possession?

A13: You, the one who purchased the alcohol. You may not leave your cup unattended, once finished, cups must be properly disposed of.

Q14: Can I consume alcohol on a public street?

A14: No, unless the street is closed and is clearly signed, indicating it as part of the Commons Area.

Q15: Can a Social District be revoked?

A15: Yes, a municipality can revoke a Social District designation, after at least one public hearing on the proposed revocation, if it is determined that the commons area was a public nuisance or threatened the health, safety, or welfare of the public.

Q16: How many Michigan communities have created Social Districts?

A16: 83, none in Marquette County at this time.

Upon the conclusion of the DDA public input session. They will determine whether or not to forward a recommendation to create the Social District to the City Council.

Additional Information will be provided online at www.cityofnegaunee.com.

This will include the Social District map, and the Management and Maintenance Plan.

If you would like to voice your opinion on this proposal, the DDA invites you to attend its public input session or mail in your thoughts to the city.


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