Northport creating “social district” for outdoor consumption of alcohol

The Leelanau Ticker’s Art Bukowski shares that the village of Northport is creating Leelanau’s first social district that will allow people to take alcoholic beverages bought in bars or restaurants and drink them in outdoor areas:

The village council unanimously approved the move Thursday, and village manager Jim Dyer will now work to implement the district by summer, pending final approval from state regulators. The district will cover all of downtown Northport.

State officials created the framework for social districts during the COVID pandemic, when restaurants and bars were feeling the pinch from reduced customers. The idea was to facilitate social distancing by allowing people to spread out with their drinks.

But the concept has gained momentum in the wake of the pandemic as communities have found these districts are a great tool to attract people and support businesses. State records show that more than 100 such districts are now active across the state. In northwest Michigan, they exist in Manistee, Petoskey, Grayling, Gaylord, Cadillac and Central Lake.

Multiple Northport businesses advocated for the social district, as evidenced by letters to the council. Daniel Caudill, a Northport resident, business owner and president of the Northport Omena Chamber of Commerce, wrote that the “benefits of implementing a social district in Northport are numerous and far-reaching.”

“Not only would it set us apart as a unique destination in the area, attracting visitors to our village, but it would also enable existing businesses to maximize their potential during peak seasons without the need for extensive hiring,” he wrote. “Additionally, it presents an opportunity to activate outdoor spaces…”

Lots more in the Ticker!

Also an editor’s note for you: Let’s start doing this for cannabis which has been legal in Michigan for years but is still treated as totally illegal.

photo via Mitten Brewery Northport