Kannapolis says full impact of district for alcohol consumption yet to be seen as Salisbury also considers idea

Published 12:02 am Friday, January 21, 2022

By Natalie Anderson

KANNAPOLIS — As the city of Salisbury considers doing the same, people in Kannapolis say it’s too early to see the impact of its new downtown social district and they expect to see benefits in the spring and summer — when more people are out and about.

A social district allows consumers to purchase alcohol from state-licensed businesses and restaurants and walk around a designated district with specially marked cups. Kannapolis was among the first cities to implement such a district in October shortly after House Bill 890 passed in the North Carolina General Assembly.The  district in Kannapolis includes portions of West Avenue, Oak Avenue, Vance Street, Laureate Way, Cannon Baller Way, West B Street and Main Street.

Kayla Garmon, manager at Chophouse 101 on West Avenue, said the restaurant hasn’t seen a huge difference yet because of the winter. However, customers are now being informed that during their wait they can purchase a drink from the bar and enjoy it outside before being seated. Garmon said customers have enjoyed this as a way to avoid feeling crowded inside.

Garmon said she is already seeing a slight boost in alcohol sales, though the restaurant has only been open for a little more than a year. She anticipates this opportunity will also encourage consumers to stop in for a bite.

“We honestly love it because it does give us a great opportunity for more sales and to tell people about us,” Garmon said.

Kannapolis Mayor Pro Tem Ryan Dayvault said he doesn’t drink, but he sees the beneficial economic impact for the downtown, which leaders have been working “to bring life to” over the last few years.

“This is another tool and avenue to do that,” he said.

Dayvault said he also likes that this is something the council can rescind at any time if significant problems do arise. He added the colder weather has keep more people indoors and he expects to see more of the impact in the spring and summer.

“If it’s successful, which I hope it is, it opens downtown up to a whole other host of things that can happen down there,” Dayvault said. “It just takes that perimeter problem that lots of restaurants have out of the equation.”

Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant said he’s only received one call from a resident concerned it could encourage excessive drinking. With no incidents reported from local law enforcement, it’s “really been a non-event for us,” Hinnant said.

A major goal in approving the social district was to allow more outdoor dining, Hinnant said. He added the social district will grant merchants opportunities to communicate with the public in a different way to attract more business. Some merchants have put products outside as another way to encourage those taking advantage of the social district to step inside.

Hinnant said city staff did a “very thorough job” of bringing forward the proposal and working through a number of details that needed to be addressed prior to recommendation.

Downtown Salisbury Inc. has spent the last few months working to implement such a district in downtown Salisbury. DSI plans to propose a social district all of the municipal services district — the area officially designated as downtown — though the Salisbury City Council has ultimate say and can choose to scale back.

The law allowing a social district requires municipalities to provide a map, days and hours for alcohol consumption, signage indicating its location and a management and maintenance plan. DSI Board of Directors member Samantha Haspel said a QR code will provide information about participating businesses and other information consumers must know before enjoying the district. The codes can be scanned with smartphone cameras.

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

DSI will also request the city provide businesses with district stickers for the cups and for the front door of their businesses indicating they’re a participant in the social district. The name of the customer, along with time and date of purchase will be required. Cups must comply with the city’s recycling standards, and garbage cans would need to be available to dispose of the cups when visiting another establishment.

Throughout January, DSI has hosted several public engagement sessions with little attendance beyond downtown bars and merchants. During a public input session held via Zoom on Thursday, Rexx Rexrode, a member of the Salisbury Police Chief’s Advisory Council, asked about the added burden to police officers who he said will likely have to field, or not respond to, nuisance calls related to drunken residents because of staffing woes within the department. DSI Director Sada Stewart Troutman said other cities that have implemented a similar model have not seen significant spikes in criminal activity. She added that DSI has included Chief Jerry Stokes in discussions about this initiative.

Haspel added that in addition to law enforcement, participating merchants will have to take responsibility in ensuring such drinking privileges are followed responsibly.

Haspel also said people already walk around the downtown area while drinking, and referenced past events where downtown drinking is permitted with few concerns: the annual Wine About Winter event and the New Year’s Eve celebration at Bell Tower Green Park this year where alcohol was served for the night.

Rexrode also asked about support among businesses that don’t serve alcohol. Haspel said she’s gone door-to-door to downtown merchants and has received “almost unanimous support.”

Rexrode, who lives downtown, said he was in support of the measure and hopes DSI can “work out all the kinks.”

DSI has not yet determined the hours of operation for the district. Haspel said she understands this idea will require a “little bit of a leap of faith” and a “period of adjustment,” with “hiccups along the way” expected.

DSI will bring a full proposal to City Council at its Feb. 15 meeting, with a vote anticipated by March 1.

For more information, visit downtownsalisburync.com/socialdistrict/ or call 704-637-7814.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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