Council discusses creation of downtown Albemarle social district

Published 2:09 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2022

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In order to increase foot traffic and help revitalize the downtown, the Albemarle City Council on Monday looked into creating a social district 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 bill Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law last September to help downtown businesses still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than creating a statewide social district, cities and municipalities have the option to pass ordinances creating their own.

In a presentation before council, Main Street Manager/Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation Director Joy Almond said establishing such a district would attract new visitors, enhance the activity in outdoor spaces and give restaurants and bars more space for patrons to congregate.

Patrons would not be able to carry their open containers outside the district or take a beverage from one establishment into another. They also could not bring their own personal beer or wine into the district. Certain businesses within the district can decide to opt out and not participate.

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.

The districts are also 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 contain no more than 16 ounces of alcohol.

“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 told The Stanly News & Press a few weeks ago.

Last fall, Kannapolis took steps to designate part of its revitalized downtown as a social district and Norwood received approval from the town council in December to establish a social district. Salisbury has also been looking into creating one.

Council approved a motion for Almond to host a public input session to gather feedback from relevant stakeholders including downtown business owners and city residents and to establish the specific boundaries.

Assuming the community is in favor of creating a social district, Almond would then come before council to present a plan for approval.

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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