RALEIGH, N.C.(WNCN) – Drinking in public with limitations may be coming to downtown Raleigh.
Next week, the city’s Economic Development and Innovation Committee plans to revisit talks on implementing a social district.
Social district would allow the consumption of alcohol in public outdoor spaces as long as they are within specific boundaries and hours.
City leaders have expressed interest in getting the pilot program up and running by mid to late summer — or at least ahead of the fall.
At the committee’s meeting last month, the Downtown Raleigh Association shared findings from a recent community survey.
Most of that feedback was positive, but city staff noted, “both business owners and residents expressed concerns related to the social district encouraging bad behavior (over-consumption, disorderly conduct, etc.), associated trash and cleanliness issues, the potential for creating an unsafe environment, and apprehension around how the district boundaries and rules would be enforced.”
“We’re not looking for a party crowd. That’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to add a little bit more to draw people in for whatever they want to do while they’re down there,” said councilmember David Knight during that May meeting.
Staff were asked to come back in June with the proposed hours of operations, boundary’s focused on Moore Square and City Market areas, a plan for signage, enforcement and trash.
Staff were also asked to come back with best practices learned from other cities who already have a social district.
Those recommendations will be presented during the committee’s June 28 meeting.
Greensboro is an example of a city that has an established social district. Its hours of operation are from noon to 9 p.m. daily. City staff said in a memo that Greensboro staff noted that the standard daily times keep operating hours from being too confusing. Ending at 9 p.m. keeps the social district from overlapping into general nightlife, a city memo said.
Other North Carolina cities like Kannapolis, Hickory and Salisbury also have social districts. Their hours start between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. and run until 11 p.m. or midnight.
Mayor Mary Anne Baldwin says she prefers to see the social district operate from Thursday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. with Sunday ending no later than 6 p.m.
During last month’s meeting, Baldwin expressed concerns about how special events may impact the social district. The way the city’s rules are written right now, special event alcohol rules would take precedence over the social district.
State law says alcohol purchased in a social district cannot enter a public space permitted for special events. Likewise, alcohol from a special event cannot enter the social district. Given that, the city wants to focus on using Fayetteville Street as social district.
“Greensboro has held special events since establishing their social district, and has been successful
using signage to aid in enforcement,” said a staff memo.
City staff will provide the committee with a detailed recommendation for operating a social district.