Negaunee DDA considers new ‘social district’

A ‘social district’ would allow participating bars to serve alcoholic beverages inside to be consumed in designated spaces outside.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 7:01 PM EDT
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NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WLUC) - The City of Negaunee will consider allowing alcoholic drinks in designated outdoor spaces downtown, mainly on Iron Street.

Negaunee is the second city in Upper Michigan behind Manistique to propose a social district, a designation signed into state law in 2020. “Participating bars who get a specialized license from the state of Michigan can sell alcohol on-site to be consumed off-site,” City of Negaunee Manager Nate Heffron said.

Originally designed to make social distancing easier at bars and restaurants, owner Mike Ridenour of Jackson’s Pit Bar & Grill thinks a social district could boost sales for all downtown vendors.

“I believe it will benefit us, all the businesses here in Negaunee economically,” Ridenour said. He continued, “Being able to have your patrons go outside with their beverages, whether alcoholic or not, and walk up and down the sidewalks, go up to the bandshell for a city band concert, it’s a great idea.”

There are limits to where you can drink in a social district. “This alcohol can only be consumed on public properties, so that would mean any sidewalks in the social district, public parks that are signed,” Heffron said.

Designated parking lots and streets closed to vehicles are also included in social districts.

Ridenour says implementing one downtown would tie into the DDA’s future plans to update Negaunee. This could include outdoor seating downtown. “Something where a customer may walk up to a picnic table in a public space or a table with an umbrella and be able to scan a QR code to order food and drink from Jackson’s Pit, Tino’s Pizza, or just drinks from Smarty’s,” Ridenour said of a potential future addition to the city.

The DDA invites the public to a special meeting Monday, May 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Negaunee Ice Arena to weigh in on whether or not to implement this social district.

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