Negaunee social district is an interesting concept

The state of Michigan says a local government may designate a social district within its jurisdiction, with licensed businesses able to sell alcohol within a “commons area.” Customers then may consume their drinks in that area.

The city of Negaunee now has one of those districts.

The city and its Downtown Development Authority will unveil their new social district on Saturday. If anyone’s confused about the boundaries, the commons area will be clearly marked with signage.

Customers, though, have to buy their drinks from an approved, licensed businesses in the commons area. The district too will feature a 16-ounce compostable cup for businesses to use when selling alcohol.

City Manager Nate Heffron said the goal of the Negaunee social district is to sustain and nurture economic development by supporting businesses such as restaurants, microbreweries and bars. The city also hopes that the social district will increase downtown traffic, which in turn would lead to economic growth.

However, with alcohol consumption, there always is the possibility of problems. The city, though, has worked with businesses to identify these problems, such as extra trash cans, portable johns, signage and roadblocks when needed.

Social districts are an innovative idea, allowing people to stroll around and visit other businesses, and open up tables when they are finished with their meals.

They also have some appeal during events such as festivals when businesses can become overcrowded.

However, a bar patron, for example, might buy more drinks while sitting at a single bar the whole evening instead of moving to another bar, cutting into the first bar’s income.

And again, issues such as litter and unseemly behavior, to put it one way, need to be addressed when and if they arise.

We look forward to seeing how Negaunee’s social district plays out, and whether other municipalities will go the same route.


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