‘All ships rise with rising tide’: town center bar, restaurateurs see social district as good opportunity – Salisbury Post

By Natalie Anderson
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SALISBURY – Owners of downtown bars and restaurants, still reeling from the economic effects of the pandemic, say they see the potential for a downtown social district to lift all ships in the rising tide.

A social neighborhood would allow consumers to buy alcohol from state-approved businesses and restaurants and walk around the designated neighborhood with specially marked mugs. The ability of municipalities to implement such a district comes from legislation passed by the General Assembly in last year’s legislative session, Bill 890.

Downtown Salisbury Inc., which is working on creating the neighborhood, met with owners of downtown bars and restaurants on Tuesday to discuss the proposal they plan to take to city council next month. DSI board member Samantha Haspel told the Post that DSI has previously discussed the idea with downtown merchants. So Tuesday’s discussion mainly included logistics questions about implementation.

David Marshall of Morgan Ridge Railwalk Brewery said the neighborhood is an opportunity to promote Salisbury’s craft beer scene.

“Anything we can do to drive more tourist traffic to our city is good for all of us,” Marshall said. “All ships rise with the rising tide. So if we can come together and put something like that in place that allows people to make this little town a destination, I think we’re really doing something different in town and for business.

New Sarum Brewing co-owner and master brewer Andy Maben said he and others have spent the past few years educating the public that craft beer is a social treat and not something that is consumed en masse. . Maben said a social district would provide another place to teach brewery products and “what community brewing is all about.” In addition, he sees it as an opportunity to create a synergy between the employees of the bars and restaurants in the city center.

“There is a strange misconception among people who have never been in the restaurant or service industry that everyone is against each other, but in fact we are all working together as much as possible to get so many people in our area and spread the wealth, ”Maben said. “If we can keep money in downtown Salisbury then we will all continue to pay our employees.”

Go Burrito owner Mikey Wetzel told the Post he sees the neighborhood as an opportunity to attract young people who might otherwise bring their money to Kannapolis or Charlotte. Shortly after the law authorizing social districts was passed last fall, Kannapolis established its own social district in October.

Wetzel added that the ABC licenses include limits on where alcohol can be consumed in a business, which would avoid having to request extensions and, instead, allow pop-ups further away from businesses when urban events like Salisbury Pride, for example.

“When I’m a business and I’m advertising for you to come to my house or to my live music, my biggest challenge is getting you out of your house,” Wetzel said. “Once you get in the car, your dining choices have become very important. Because if you are 10 minutes from the city center, you are not far from Kannapolis… So whatever you do to make Salisbury city center cool, is going to be like a magnet for all the people to spend. their money here.

Wetzel added that with a growth in the number of downtown residents, people also want the amenities and perks that typically come with living in a downtown area.

Right now, DSI plans to propose to include the entire City Service District – the area officially designated as the city center – but city council members can choose to scale down and start small. The City Service District includes areas along North Jackson, East Cemetery, West Horah, and North Long Streets, as well as parts of South Main, South Church, East Kerr, East Council, and North Lee Streets.

Days and hours of operation have not yet been determined. Wetzel has expressed concerns about confusion among customers regarding the hours of operation of downtown businesses, which he says is already a challenge to communicate. Haspel said the idea discussed among task force members allows the district to correspond when businesses start and stop serving alcohol.

While Bell Tower Green Park is part of the MSD, DSI will offer to start qualifying consumption time there later than surrounding businesses to accommodate families visiting the park during the day, Haspel said.

Shannon Bergland, owner of Bottle & Can, said that in addition to enjoying more craft beer, the district will allow her to put a bench outside of her small business for customers to sit on, which is a challenge it faces because such a business requires an extension of its license and a high cost. Bergland added that she and other traders are focused on “rebuilding” the pandemic.

“It saves me about $ 3,000 a year, not counting all the extra money I’ll be making with people (in the neighborhood),” Bergland said. “That alone is great for me because people always ask me about outdoor seating, and especially right now with COVID, it’s not an expense I can budget for. “

Other talking points revolved around whether it is better to use a marker on the mug or ensure a customer’s name is part of a label on the mug. Bar owners have also asked to participate in a wholesale mug purchase to remove the burden on traders. Haspel and traders also discussed the implementation of a penny surcharge to be spent on initiatives that discourage alcohol and substance use among young people in addition to the purchase of cups.

State legislation authorizing the social district includes certain requirements for its establishment, including a map, the days and times of alcohol consumption throughout the district, signage indicating its location, and a management and maintenance plan. .

In addition, special cups with the logo of the social district, the name of the company or restaurant that supplied the alcohol and a statement discouraging the consumption of alcohol by minors are required. Cups couldn’t exceed 16 ounces of alcohol, and customers couldn’t walk into a new participating business with alcohol still in the cup. Drinks must be discarded before leaving the neighborhood.

DSI will also ask the city to provide businesses with neighborhood stickers for the cuts and for the front door of their businesses indicating that they are participating in the social neighborhood. Customer name, time and date of purchase will be required. Cups should meet city recycling standards, and trash cans should be available to dispose of the cups when visiting another facility.

If approved, Haspel anticipates that DSI could implement the idea in March or April, although this is also subject to the discretion of city council.

DSI will continue to hold public engagement sessions until the proposal goes to city council in February. The planned community engagement sessions are as follows:

• Friday at 8:30 am, virtual. Use the link us02web.zoom.us/j/88327750435 to log in.

• Tuesday, January 18 at 11:30 am, in person at 130 S. Main St., the former Wells Fargo bank building.

• Wednesday January 19 at 5:30 pm, in person at Mean Mug Coffee on North Main Street.

• Thursday January 20 at 5.30 p.m., virtual. Use the link us02web.zoom.us/j/82999892045 to log in.

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

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

David H. Henry