DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – This week Raleigh City Council members approved the city’s first social drinking district, and the same thing could be on the way to Durham, according to city leaders.
A social district allows people to drink alcoholic beverages in open containers while walking down the street in a certain part of the city.
Durham City Councilman Leonardo Williams told CBS 17 that a proposal is currently in the works and could be presented to council as early as August.
“We definitely would like to have it,” Williams said. “It just creates more of a social environment.”
Williams said creating a social district could help boost sales for restaurants and bars downtown.
“It allows you to patronize more restaurants and more bars,” Williams said. “It’s up to us to grow responsibly and this is just one of the little feathers in the hat that makes it fun and cool to go to Durham.”
Williams said right now its still up in the air exactly where the social district will go in Durham.
“Ultimately, it may be a possibility to look at all of downtown as a social district,” Williams said.
According to survey by Downtown Durham Inc. 80 percent of businesses they surveyed downtown were in favor of a social district and 94 percent of the general population said they would be in favor as well.
But Daniel Sartain, owner of Bar Virgile, said he has concerns about customers leaving his restaurant with an open container. “If you are pouring drinks to go, what’s to stop you from taking it outside and serving it to an underage person?” Sartain said.
Sartain said he thinks a social district could work for holidays or special events, but he said he’s not sure if his bar will participate year-round if a social district is approved.
“I would seriously have to contemplate this and talk with my team,” Sartain said. “My gut instinct right now is that I wouldn’t, just simply because of liability.”
Durham City Council could hear a proposal for an ordinance to create a social district as early as August.
Officials with Downtown Durham Inc tell CBS 17 in the meantime they are continuing to meet with business owners to determine the level of participation.
They said they are also meeting with non-business entities downtown to inform them about social districts and to gather their feedback.
Social districts are made possible in North Carolina after Governor Roy Cooper signed House Bill 890 last September, which allows cities and counties to create their own social districts.