Albemarle looks into establishing social district for alcohol consumption

Published 5:06 pm Monday, January 31, 2022

The City of Albemarle is looking into the possibility of creating a new “social district” for its downtown, which would allow people to walk around and consume alcoholic drinks in designated outdoor areas.

The measure was part of a large Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) bill Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law last September. Rather than creating a statewide social district, cities and municipalities have the option to pass ordinances creating their own.

Main Street Manager/Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation Director Joy Almond is set to discuss the details with city council during its Feb. 7 meeting. She would help establish the district if it gets approved.

“I think it is something that could be potentially beneficial to our restaurants, our bars, the new brewery that is being built in downtown and I think any way that we’re able to create a more enjoyable experience for visitors to our downtown, I think should definitely be explored,” Almond said, noting she’s talked with several local businesses that are supportive of the idea.

There are several requirements from the state including a map outlining the district, days and hours for alcohol consumption throughout the district, signage indicating the location and a management and maintenance plan.

“In looking at the boundaries of a possible social district, we have a pretty large downtown area, so we have to look at the relation to where the public areas are and where the restaurants and bars are located to come up with the best plan that will work for everyone involved,” Almond said.

The districts are required to provide to-go containers for alcoholic drinks that have some sort of marking indicating the drink must stay within the parameters of the district. The cups can hold no more than 16 ounces of alcohol.

People will not be able to carry their open containers outside the district, nor can they bring their own personal beer or wine into the district. Any business within the district can choose whether to allow customers with beverages to enter their premises.

Before a district can be operational, municipalities must submit to the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission a detailed map of the social district with the boundaries clearly marked and the days and hours during which alcoholic beverages can be consumed.

As long as council is receptive to the idea, Almond will recommend holding a public input meeting to get feedback from relevant businesses and other stakeholders.

If passed, Albemarle would be the second municipality in the county to have a social district, after Norwood, which received approval from its council in December. Their district is in the downtown Norwood area on both sides of Main Street, between Whitley and Pee Dee Avenue, bordered on the northern side by Campbell Street.

Elsewhere in the region, Kannapolis was one of the first in the state to establish a district while Salisbury recently held several community input sessions to gauge interest.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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