China Grove approves temp social district guidelines

Published 12:05 am Friday, June 7, 2024

CHINA GROVE — Following months of exploration on the matter, China Grove town officials took steps on Tuesday to permit open alcohol consumption at various events downtown.

The proposed ordinance does not create a permanent social district such as the ones that are in place in Salisbury and Kannapolis. Instead, the ordinance allows the council to employ discretion on a case-by-case basis for special events such as China Grove’s annual Farmers Day.

“This only would be adopted by resolution from the council for specific events,” China Grove Parks and Recreation Director Jill Sellers said.

The perimeter of the district would run roughly from town hall to past Patterson Street toward the southern part of town. That would include Tatum and Swink streets and Hanna Park.

Council member Don Bringle said he would like to see the southern perimeter expanded just enough to also include Main Street Marketplace, which would require an additional few hundred feet.

“I would want to make sure we include the marketplace in case they may want to sell wine in the future,” Bringle said. “They are doing a lot of things creatively. If we go to No Way Jose’s, let’s go a few more hundred yards so (Main Street Marketplace is) covered.”

Within the social district, people would be permitted to openly consume alcohol that was provided by businesses inside the district’s perimeter. The alcohol would have to be acquired from the businesses on the day of the permitted event and served in a pre-approved, non-glass container, no more than 16 ounces in volume.

Sellers indicated that a proposed logo has to be submitted to the state for approval. That logo would be included on the containers to signify that they were obtained through the regulated process. The town worked with the marketing firm Miller Davis Agency to conceive various logos for submission, each incorporating China Grove signage in some way.

Previous efforts to enact a social district in China Grove had been unsuccessful despite support from the community stakeholders, such as business owners. However, some residents had stepped forward at meetings to express opposition to the idea as well.

Businesses that want to participate would need a permit and insurance and must follow ABC guidelines.

“We would issue these permits to businesses for free,” Sellers said. “They would come in with their insurance information.”

As it is currently written, the new rule would require council approval to enact a temporary social district.

“I like it like this out of the gate, so we have control,” Mayor Rodney Phillips said.

Members of the council and the town attorney discussed the prospect of putting that power into the town manager’s hands in the case that an applicant’s request did not have the necessary time before an event to present before a council meeting.

“Let’s try it this way and see how it goes,” attorney Thomas Brooke said.

When it went to a vote, every council member in attendance, except for Arthur Heggins, voted to approve the measure.

Heggins had previously spoken out against any measure that would permit open consumption of alcohol in the downtown area.

Lee Withers was not present.