Salisbury exploring creation of downtown ‘social district’ for outdoor alcohol consumption

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, October 6, 2021

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — City Attorney Graham Corriher told council members Tuesday that staff and Downtown Salisbury Inc. are looking at the potential implementation of a downtown “social district” for alcohol consumption.

A social district would allow consumers to purchase alcohol from state-licensed businesses and restaurants and walk around the designated district with specially marked cups. The ability for municipalities to implement such a district comes from legislation passed in the General Assembly and signed into law last month.

Kannapolis was among the first North Carolina cities to take advantage of the new law. The city began allowing consumers to take alcohol beverages outside of participating businesses and restaurants over the weekend after city council authorization. Kannapolis’ district includes portions of West Avenue, Oak Avenue, Vance Street, Laureate Way, Cannon Baller Way, West B Street and Main Street.

Corriher said he’s looked to Kannapolis’ plans as a model. Discussions about how it would be implemented in Salisbury are ongoing. He anticipates meeting with city staff and DSI this week.

State legislation allowing the “social district” includes some requirements for establishing it, including a map, days and hours for alcohol consumption throughout the district, signage indicating its location and a management and maintenance plan. All of those would have to be submitted to the state’s ABC Commission, but Corriher said the commission’s approval is not required at this time, according to the legislation. The commission could implement additional requirements.

Additionally, special cups indicating the logo of the special district, name of business or restaurant that provided the alcohol and a statement discouraging underage drinking are required. The cups couldn’t exceed 16 ounces of alcohol and patrons couldn’t enter a new participating business with alcohol still in the cup. Drinks must be disposed before leaving the district.

Businesses and restaurants would need ABC permits to sell, but the city is exploring whether an additional permitting fee for them to participate could help with costs for providing the special cups and enforcement. The full fiscal impact is not yet known, Corriher said. Businesses that don’t typically serve alcohol could determine whether they would allow patrons who have consumed alcohol to enter.

Corriher said the entire municipal service district — the area officially considered to be downtown — could be designated, but the council can also create more than one. Councilman David Post asked about Bell Tower Green Park and how much staff and police force would be necessary. He also asked about the city’s liability if someone is injured.

Mayor Karen Alexander suggested starting small and determining the success and safety before expanding it or repealing it.

Council member Tamara Sheffield said the district could “create synergy” if it’s what businesses ultimately want. She dismissed any concern that such a district would “become a Las Vegas.”

Council member Brian Miller said it’s important to factor in opinions of downtown residents because they will be impacted. He prefers the city’s model to be event-based and not all the time, and suggested restricting it to areas like Fisher Street, the 100 blocks of Main Street in either direction, the 100 block of Innes Street and the Railwalk because those all include businesses that serve alcohol already.

Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins asked about the advantages and disadvantages of implementing such a district beyond businesses and patrons being able to better socially distance. Corriher said he’s only looked into the legal parameters at this time. Heggins also asked about the makeup of the DSI task force studying the issue, but Corriher didn’t have additional details about its makeup during the meeting.

Corriher said his intent was to gather feedback from the council. Next steps include more discussions with a DSI task force to flesh out additional details and obtain more feedback before returning to council with an ordinance.

Sen. Carl Ford, a Republican, was the only lawmaker representing Rowan County to vote against the legislation, House Bill 890.

Also at Tuesday’s council meeting:

• Council members approved a request from Bill Haymore of Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina to rezone a parcel at 475 Faith Road to corridor mixed use with a conditional district overlay to exceed setback requirements for a future Goodwill store. The 11,500-square-foot Goodwill retail store would be located near the Innes Street Market shopping center and Aldi grocery store. Council approval will allow developers to exceed the maximum 75-feet setback in order to meet other requirements for the store’s frontage and drive-thru drop-off area. The city’s Technical Review Committee on Aug. 19 recommended approving the request to allow a 100-foot setback to the right-of-way off Faith Road and a 110-foot front setback to the right-of-way off Dunham Avenue.

• Council members rescheduled the next council meeting to Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. instead of Nov. 2, which is Election Day in Rowan County.

• Council members formally revised the city’s remote meeting policy based on the passage of House Bill 812 by state lawmakers in June. In 2020, lawmakers passed legislation allowing members of the public to submit comments to municipal leaders up to 24 hours after a public hearing, with action taken at the following meeting. Now, the city’s new policy states council members shall allow written comments to be submitted at anytime between the notice of the public hearing and 24 hours prior to the time scheduled for the beginning of the public hearing.

• Council members authorized a stormwater grant in the amount of $22,450 to be used for improvements at 1801 Bellevue Road. The grant would help mitigate flooding and water buildup issues that have damaged the foundation of Salisbury Academy, located at 2210 Jake Alexander Blvd. North.

• Council members set a public hearing for Nov. 3 related to a petition to permanently close the 100 block of West 16th Street, which contains a 60-foot unimproved right-of-way.

• Council members approved several requests for right-of-way use permits, including two parking spaces adjacent to 115 East Innes St., four parking spaces adjacent to the Amtrak station at 215 Depot St. and the 100 block of West Council St.

• Council members amended Chapter 13, Article X of the city’s Code of Ordinances related to parking restrictions. The amendment removes the two-hour limit in the parking area on the north side of East Council Street near Depot Street.

• Council members authorized the sale of parcel 005-14001, located in the 300 block of Grim Street, to TruLand Development, LLC in the amount of $1,000. City Council authorized an upset bid process at the Sept. 7 meeting and did not receive any additional offers.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.