Visitors and shoppers in downtown Raleigh will soon have new places to drink outside.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved Raleigh’s first social drinking district, which will let people buy an alcoholic drink from a participating business and carry it with them to their next stop.
The social district, which the council had discussed at length in a committee, runs along Fayetteville Street and its auxiliary streets between Moore and Nash squares. It includes the Raleigh Convention Center, Red Hat Amphitheater and Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Council member Jonathan Melton asked and the rest of the council agreed to expand the boundaries more into the Warehouse District to include businesses there that wanted to be in the district.
“I’ve talked a lot about doing tactical urbanism where we let people try things out and then get feedback that way,” Melton said after the meeting. “And doing this as a pilot allows us to do that.”
The district will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting Aug. 15.
The drinks will be in branded cups to keep people from bringing alcohol into participating businesses from their own homes or outside the district.
Businesses or buildings in the social district also can opt out of allowing people to bring drinks into their establishment.
Social districts, recently allowed by state law, are already in other cities like Greensboro, Kannapolis and Monroe. Charlotte and Durham are both considering creating them.
“We think we put a number of safeguards in; we’re following the rules that the legislators laid out,” said Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin. “But the true goal is to bring business back to downtown and help our restaurants succeed.”
A Downtown Raleigh Alliance poll found a majority of downtown business owners, office workers and residents were in favor of a social district but became more hesitant the closer the district got to their home and business.
This pilot is a chance to try to increase business in parts of downtown that have been hit hard by the pandemic, said DRA President and CEO Bill King.
“We are glad this is a pilot project, which allows the community to provide feedback and potential for changes,” he said in an email to The News & Observer. “We want to ensure this is additive for downtown and does not increase trash, noise, misbehavior or any other negative effects. We look forward to having that dialogue with residents and businesses over the next few months to make sure this works for everyone.”
The pilot program could lead to more social districts throughout the city, with the City Council set to review the district in 2023.
This story was originally published July 5, 2022 4:43 PM.
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