Diving Into A Future With Social Districts

In late 2021, the North Carolina Legislature passed a new bill (HB890) to allow social districts in counties and towns. Loosely defined, social districts allow people to buy an alcoholic beverage in one business and take it with them. You may have seen these in other cities where people can get a drink in a plastic cup and walk around an entertainment area or downtown.

I’ve done the same behavior in the past in places like Savannah and Key West and had my own first impressions about bringing that to Raleigh. I decided to look more into it and I’ll have to admit, my first impressions were a bit off.

Today, plans for social districts in Raleigh are being discussed in committee. The committee members and city staff want to get the rules in place in a thoughtful manner in order to minimize any unintended gotchas that may happen. Downtown Raleigh is a great place for the concept but places like Hillsborough Street or North Hills may have them in the future.

The topic right now is in Raleigh’s Economic Development and Innovation committee. The May 24, 2022 meeting, video above or here on YouTube, is a great one to watch and get a feel for the conversation around social districts for Raleigh.

Let me share some quick points that I took watching this video as well as an intro to the topic that took place back in February.

Overview

  • Allowing social districts was seen as a response from COVID’s hit on small businesses.
  • Social districts are seen as an economic development tool.
  • The feedback is positive that it does in fact bring more business to areas that implement them.
  • Kannapolis was the first to implement one, put in place one week after allowed.
  • Greensboro is the largest NC city with a social district today.
  • The Downtown Raleigh Alliance held a community survey that showed a majority (over 70%) in support of social districts in downtown Raleigh.
  • Major concerns are enforcement, bad behavior, and cleanliness.
  • An additional concern is the waste around single-use cups.

What I wanted to know is how this works and how I might use it during a weekend out. The topic is still being worked in the committee meetings but generally speaking, if you were inside some area that was a social district and went to a bar, you could have your drink put in a specially branded cup. That cup would also have a sticker with the bar’s name on it. You then have the freedom to take the drink with you.

But then what? The details are of course important:

  • You can walk around the social district with your beverage without issue but you cannot take it outside the boundaries.
  • Businesses inside the social district can either opt-in or opt-out of the social district. Therefore, if you’d like to do some shopping with a drink, that shop needs to say whether they allow the drink or not.
  • You cannot bring your drink to another bar.
  • You most likely can’t bring that drink to a special event that is also selling alcohol.

Some of these details are being finalized but any impression that this is a party-centric move is completely false.

I like to loosely compare it to buying a soda at a convenience store or food shop. You certainly can take it with you, drink it on the sidewalks, even bring it inside some shops. But it’s generally frowned upon to bring it into other food places. (at least I think it is)

Another use case I thought of is when there is a big event on Fayetteville Street that doesn’t sell drinks I like. If I want a tasty beer, I can now bring it with me, rather than having to sit at the bar to enjoy that tasty beer.

The general thinking is to allow social districts on Thursdays to Sundays from about 11am to 10pm. Sunday will probably end earlier. Times are still open and being worked in committee.

The next steps are to finalize the rules and how to roll out a pilot around Fayetteville Street and City Market. Then, the general council can vote on implementing it for the Fall. Keep an eye on the next meeting scheduled for June 28, 2022.

Pic of the Week

It doesn’t look exciting but I AM excited for the renovation work taking place at the corner of Edenton and Person Street. The former Oakwood CafĂ© space at 300 East Edenton will become home to Longleaf Swine. The food can be had today, and it’s delicious, but the upcoming space will be a treat for sure.

Their socials state a Spring opening which will be perfect for the kind of outdoor seating they have planned. Just take a look at the rendering below.

Pic of the Week

The downtown revitalization has reached a new level with the first major grocery store of this era. Weaver Street Market is now open on Hargett Street in the Warehouse District!

There is plentiful seating on the upper balconies and the hot bars are easy for grabbing some good, faster food for meals. That’s, of course, in addition to the several aisles of grocery items and fresh produce. The store is open 7am-10pm every day.

One of the top reasons for not living downtown was the lack of a full grocer, claimed a lot of people in the last 15 or so years. What’s the next excuse?

Glenwood South’s Tin Roof Bar Overlooks Lane Street

Glenwood South is getting a Tin Roof bar at the corner of Glenwood and Lane. The live music bar has over 15 locations in the US and you can see the second floor and outdoor space coming together in the photo above.

Having never been but eager to check it out, I see the place also serves food as well. The bar plans to open “late summer” which is great timing for the nice fall weather.

Pic of the Week

The space next door to Poole’s is being worked on. This is the spot for another one of Ashley Christensen’s restaurants, Poolside Pie. The timing of this post was on purpose as Christensen just won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in the country this year. She’s the only chef in the state to win it.

Congrats to her and her entire team behind AC Restaurants!

Transfer Company Food Hall Continues to Ramp Up

Have you been to Transfer Company Food Hall yet?

While not officially open (are they?) the new food and drink vendors over at Transfer Company have been slowly opening and the entire place is operating on a week-to-week basis.

What started with empanadas and seafood has now become a weekend draw for tasty eats including bagels, cookies, and beer. Not to mention the space looks great and is enjoyable to be in.

There is still plenty of work to be done inside the space but the best way to stay in touch is through their website or Instagram. It’s been fun to watch them grow slowly but the ball is really starting to roll on the east side of downtown.

Pic of the Week

Morgan Street Food Hall. August 2018.

The Morgan Street Food Hall is now open! There are plenty of dining options for lunch and dinner throughout with a little retail on the side as well.

Make sure to check out the vendors on their website ahead of time to avoid getting stuck in the crowds when it’s busy. Lunch and dinner have been packed from what I hear and with the cool weather about to show up, the food hall is sure to be pretty lively.

The place looks great and is a far cry from the club/bars that used to pack this warehouse years ago. Kudos to the team behind it and I look forward to many visits!

We’re chatting about Morgan Street Food Hall on the DTRaleigh Community. Join us.

Plans Submitted for Bar Renovation at 612 Glenwood

612 Glenwood. May 2018.

612 Glenwood. May 2018.

The 600 block of Glenwood South just might become the densest cluster of bars in downtown Raleigh.

At 612 Glenwood, currently shown above, submitted plans to the city show a proposal for adding a second floor to the building for outdoor bar space. The outdoor bar is basically the roof of the building and is mostly open to all views.

In addition to a second floor, most of the outdoor space around the first will be cleaned up. According to SR-042-18, the “10 existing parking spaces to be obliterated…” Basically, the rear parking lot and driveway will be paved over and an outdoor bar will be built towards the back.

Here are the renderings as part of the plan submissions with an aerial view from Google Maps as a reference.

612 Glenwood. May 2018 via Google Maps.

612 Glenwood. May 2018 via Google Maps.

Plans for 612 Glenwood, SR-042-18.

Click for larger

Plans for 612 Glenwood, SR-042-18.

Click for larger

The retailer, Feelgoodz, is moving (has moved?) from the space as retail struggles in Glenwood South these days. This makes sense that 612 Glenwood could be a bar for a while as the biggest use here is nightlife. Even with so many residents, perhaps the district hasn’t hit critical mass to really land some solid retail.

Who knows though as the dynamic could change in the future with even more residents coming nearby at Smokey Hollow. It shouldn’t be too surprising to see even more development along Peace so retail might have a chance in the future. If only office space could land along Glenwood, then the dynamic might really mix up.