Owosso City Council unanimously approved allowing a downtown social district during the virtual Tuesday evening, Feb. 16 meeting. The new social district will allow people to consume alcoholic beverages outside, but only on a limited number of sidewalks in the downtown area and with precautions in place. The implementation of the social district is to assist restaurants and bars that have struggled due to occupancy limits over recent months.
According to the proposal from Owosso Main Street/DDA Director Josh Adams, “It is expected that these establishments will continue to be restricted to approximately half of their pre-COVID level. It is also essential for these businesses to provide environments that meet consumer health expectations. For these reasons, demand for outdoor dining is expected to increase even throughout spring and summer 2021.” It is thought that recent extensions to outdoor dining areas in Owosso will not be enough to meet an expected increase in demand because of physical/social distancing requirements.
The social district area will include (see map, note blue areas) the sidewalk on Washington Street, from Mason Street in the north to Jerome Street in the south. The entire Main Street Plaza is included, along with the sidewalk on Exchange Street, between Park Street on the east and Water Street on the west. The downtown water fountain park area, and also the sidewalk on Comstock Street, between Saginaw and Washington streets, is also included.
The now approved proposal states that the social district, referenced as the Commons area, will have clearly marked signs indicating beverages cannot leave the area, along with “expected rules of conduct.”
The social district and/or Commons area will only be operational Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m.
Some of the restrictions include:
• Boundaries, as defined on map, will include proper signs outlining “expected rules of conduct.”
• Alcoholic beverages will have to be purchased only through businesses with proper, permitted liquor licensing, located along the social district.
• Beverages will only be sold in official, branded, 16-oz., plastic containers. (Glass will not be allowed.)
• Beverage cup collection stations will be available near the entry of all permitted providers or dispersed throughout the district.
• Other signs, located at the district borders, will remind people beverages can’t be removed from the area.
• Laws regarding public intoxication will still apply, including impaired driving, serving alcohol to minors and laws regarding open containers.
Restaurants and/or bars currently part of the social district include Roma’s Backdoor, Lily Pearls Lounge and Niche Bar & Lounge.
The allowance for social district areas began in 2020 when the state legislature amended Michigan liquor control code.
Other guidelines to note:
• Only people 21-years and older will be allowed to purchase alcoholic beverages in designated cups.
• No alcohol purchased elsewhere or brought in from outside the social district will be allowed.
• Alcoholic beverages purchased at one business can’t be carried into another business and must remain outdoors.
• Designated cups aren’t reusable.
• Leaving the social district with an alcoholic beverage violates state and local law.