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Charlotte trails other cities in allowing drinking in the streets in ‘social districts’

Posted on 08/18/22

By Alexandria Sands -

The City of Charlotte will soon vote on a highly anticipated policy to allow for “social districts” in certain neighborhoods.

But that doesn’t mean people can suddenly start drinking on the streets. It will take longer to see the actual implementation of these open container destinations — possibly several months.

  • Monday, city leaders are expected to approve an ordinance. After that, neighborhoods like Plaza Midwood or NoDa apply to become social districts.
  • Meanwhile, Kannapolis is coming up on one year of running a social district. Greensboro launched its district in March. Other smaller cities like Cornelius, Monroe and Salisbury all have social districts, too.

What’s happening: In summer 2021, after cities blocked off streets for safe outdoor dining and drinking during the pandemic, Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill into law allowing North Carolina cities and counties to outline boundaries where patrons can sip alcohol while strolling the streets.

Zoom out: In Asheboro, about 90 miles from Charlotte, people are now sipping and strolling in the lively downtown, formerly a textile town. The footprint of the social district is relatively small, consisting of a park, a parking lot and a strip of Sunset Avenue.

  • It’s notable that the “zoo city” locked down its social district before Charlotte did, as Asheboro was North Carolina’s largest “dry” city until 2008. The idea of a social district was met with some resistance. People assumed it would turn downtown into a party scene. “Given the history of Randolph County, it wasn’t surprising,” says Joel McClosky, founder of Four Saints Brewing Company.
  • Instead, the district has drawn zoo visitors to the downtown and improved attendance of summer concerts, says Barbara Gallimore, owner of “The Flying Pig” bar and grill (appropriately named for when residents believed they’d see alcohol sales in the city.)
  • Grabbing an alcoholic beverage to sip on outside also eases customers’ patience during long wait times, Gallimore says. The main challenge she’s run into is people thinking they can enter the establishment with a drink from somewhere else.

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