Leaders set to vote on 'social district,' would allow drinking along downtown Raleigh streets

5 July 2022

City leaders are scheduled to vote Tuesday on a measure that would allow drinking in the streets of downtown Raleigh to become a reality.

If Raleigh City Council approves a “social district” for downtown Raleigh, people will be allowed to sip beer, wine or a cocktail while strolling the streets.

The social district would encompass Fayetteville Street from the State Capitol to the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts and includes Red Hat Amphitheater. City Market is part of the proposed district whereas Moore Square and Nash Square are not.

Dawson, Morgan, Blount and South streets form the proposed district’s border.

People would be allowed to stroll the streets with open-container drinks sold by restaurants and bars licensed by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control System from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days per week.

If council members vote for the social district Tuesday night, it could go in effect as soon as Aug. 15.

Last month, the city’s Economic Development and innovation Committee met to discuss how the social district would work.

“We don’t want an atmosphere like New Orleans or anything like that,” said city of Raleigh Emergency Management and Special Events Coordinator Whitney Schoenfeld.

The city plans to clearly mark the borders of the proposed district with signs, so people know where you can and can’t grab a to-go drink and walk around downtown.

The city of Raleigh is proposing a social district area for its downtown. The city of Raleigh provided the map.

Businesses can opt-in or out of allowing customers to bring in drinks from restaurants and bars. The to-go drinks would be served in special cups, no more than 16 ounces. Also, to-go drinks cannot be served in a glass container under the proposal.

The original goal was for the city to implement its social district by the summer with the idea of bringing more foot traffic to downtown Raleigh.

“I think the best-case scenario is it brings people down to spend longer time in downtown [to] sort of lengthen their trips downtown,” Downtown Raleigh Alliance President and CEO Bill King.

Should the plan be approved, Raleigh city councilmembers would get an update on how it is working after the first six months.

“Let’s start here, let’s gather the information, make the tweaks we need and then this one can continue and if other areas of the city want it, we can put them there,” said Jonathan Melton, an at-large city councilmember and chair of the Economic Development and Innovation Committee.

Raleigh leaders discuss new 'social district' to bring people back to Fayetteville Street

Several municipalities throughout North Carolina already have social districts in place, including Greensboro, Hickory, Kannapolis, Monroe, Newton, Norwood, Salisbury and Sylva.

Other municipalities across the state are also considering social districts, including Albemarle, Charlotte, Durham, High Point, New Bern, Waynesville, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.

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