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City Council approves Downtown Social District

ALPENA, Mich. — Alpena City Council members voted unanimously to approve a social district in Downtown Alpena on Monday night.

In a social district, people can purchase alcohol at a restaurant or bar, and then take it outside and into the district to enjoy.

“They can consume an open container of alcohol in a public space,” said Anne Gentry, the Executive Director of the Alpena Downtown Development Authority. “Whether that be Culligan Plaza, the sidewalk- pretty much any public space.”

Michigan lawmakers created a bill last summer that allows local governments to create social districts in an effort to increase restaurant sales during the pandemic.

“Our outdoor dining is so popular in the summer,” Gentry said. “I really just think this is going to be another great draw for tourists and locals to have another reason to come downtown- listen to live music, have a glass of wine and really enjoy the ambience.”

While there are still some remaining steps, Gentry says the district will be operating by the time the summer season is in full swing.

“We’re hoping by mid to the end of June,” Gentry said. “Definitely by the most popular parts of the summer to have this in place.”

Other businesses could be inclined to apply for a liquor license, or to move downtown, and join the fun. The local bars and restaurants are all supportive.

“That’s what I have seen in other downtowns that have implemented that- more bars and restaurants wanting to locate there or participate,” Gentry said. “It does allow for extra sales. Feedback I’ve gotten so far from people that currently own a liquor license, they’ve all wanted to participate.”

The state’s liquor commission still needs to approve the district and grant permits to each participating vendor.