Non-ABC licensed businesses also anticipate economic benefit from newly passed social district
Published 12:01 am Friday, April 8, 2022
SALISBURY — While downtown bars and restaurants have signaled support for the newly established social district, other businesses that don’t serve alcohol share the belief that the district will spur further economic activity.
Earlier this week, city council members gave the green light to a new downtown social district, which will allow consumers to purchase alcohol from state-licensed businesses and restaurants and walk around a designated district with specially marked cups. For businesses that don’t have licenses to serve alcohol, those patrons are welcome to enter into such establishments with their cup if the business opts to participate in the district. But purchasing an alcoholic beverage from one ABC-licensed establishment and walking inside another ABC-licensed business with the same cup will not be allowed, so patrons will have to dispose of such cups before purchasing a new drink.
The proposal is led by Downtown Salisbury Inc., which is working to obtain the special cups and erect proper signage marking the district before opening it to the public on May 1. Though DSI originally proposed the entire municipal services district — the area officially designated as being downtown — discussions with city council resulted in tighter boundaries and adjusted operating hours. Within the MSD, the new map shows the district bounded by the intersection block of Jackson and Innes streets, Fisher and Church streets, across Horah to Lee Street and from Fisher to Cemetery Street.
Operating hours will be from noon to midnight Sunday through Saturday, with drinking hours beginning at Bell Tower Green Park at 5 p.m. Council members ultimately agreed to delay that start time by an hour in warmer months so that families can enjoy an extra hour of sunlight without drinking taking place.
DSI has cited a number of pros for the district, including business growth, increased downtown spending and another revenue stream for businesses. Ultimately, the goal is to make Salisbury a downtown destination where people will spend the day or weekend instead of just a few hours.
A handful of businesses that don’t serve alcohol also hope it sparks more downtown foot traffic and patronage. Alissa Redmond, owner of South Main Book Company, said she hopes it to be transformative, especially amid ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown with a new streetscape and renovation of the Empire Hotel.
“This could be another step in the right direction,” she said. “It could be really great.”
Redmond said one of the book store’s most successful days each year is the Wine About Winter event, an annual wine tasting crawl that takes place downtown. She also would like for her business to operate in the evenings, so she plans to welcome patrons with alcohol into her store and “see how it goes.”
Eric Phillips, owner of Skinny Wheels Bike Shop, was a member of the DSI task force working to formulate Salisbury’s model. He said he can only imagine it will help downtown, and cited the new opportunity for businesses like his to see the faces of those who may not otherwise visit the shop while enjoying a drink. That leads to an opportunity to talk and educate patrons about the bike shop’s services, which can result in a new customer or client, he added.
That’s the case for the annual Wine About Winter event.
“That’s one of our favorite events,” he said.
Other task force members included Salisbury Wine Shop owner Bob Potter, Pottery 101 owner Cheryl Goins, Rowan Chamber of Commerce President Elaine Spalding and DSI board chair and La Cava owner Gianni Moscardini.
A law passed last fall to aid businesses still struggling to bounce back from the pandemic makes a social district possible across North Carolina, with Kannapolis among the first to enact one. The district there includes portions of West Avenue, Oak Avenue, Vance Street, Laureate Way, Cannon Baller Way, West B Street and Main Street. Kannapolis merchants and officials previously told the Post they anticipate seeing an impact of the district in the spring when the weather warms and more people are out and about.
Evelyn Medina, owner of Mean Mug Coffee, said had Salisbury not passed one, it could have encouraged patrons to visit nearby Kannapolis instead.
“We don’t want to be left behind,” she said.
Medina said she plans to be a participant and allow patrons to come inside with their outside drink. She referenced times when someone may be eating and drinking at the nearby Shuckin’ Shack on her block, for example, but may not be willing to visit another establishment because of needing to finish their drink before leaving. Medina also cited the increased visits to her business during the annual Wine About Winter event.
Medina also said she doesn’t feel public intoxication or related concerns will be the reality when the district is enacted.
“Small towns like ours need any little push we can get to make it more attractive,” Medina said. “As long as we keep it classy, I think we’ll be OK.”
Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes previously told the Post he doesn’t anticipate an additional workload will be needed as officers already have a downtown presence during late evening and early morning hours due to the number of establishments that serve alcohol. Likewise, he doesn’t expect any costs to the department to maintain regular patrol of the area, but he can’t commit to providing any additional resources for the district either.
DSI Director Sada Stewart Troutman said signage indicating the district boundaries, along with information about maintenance and participating businesses, will be erected before the opening of the district. Additionally, proper cups must be ordered and ready beforehand, too. During a series of public engagement sessions prior to the council’s approval, downtown bars and restaurants agreed on bulk buying the necessary cups, which will include the names of patrons, the establishment and a call for responsible drinking.
“We want to make sure people are paying attention to that signage and being active participants in creating that safe environment,” Stewart Troutman said.
Additionally, DSI plans to host some educational sessions with downtown merchants before May 1 to ensure any remaining questions or concerns are resolved.
Stewart Troutman said she was grateful council members actively engaged in the process for the overall benefit of downtown.
“We’re thrilled that it’s passed,” she said.