Council informally agrees to implement downtown social district with map and adjusted hours – Reuters
SALISBURY — Council members informally agreed on Tuesday to set up a downtown social district after discussing tightened boundaries and adjusted hours of operation.
A formal order will be presented at the April 5 meeting, which council members are expected to approve. If so, the district would be operational by May 1.
A social neighborhood would allow consumers to buy alcohol from state-licensed businesses and restaurants and walk around a designated neighborhood with specially marked cups. Downtown Salisbury Inc. has led the initiative since last fall, when state lawmakers passed legislation allowing North Carolina cities to take advantage of this economic opportunity. Kannapolis enacted its district in October shortly after the legislation was passed.
DSI cited a number of benefits to the district, including business growth, increased downtown spending, and another source of revenue for businesses. Ultimately, the aim is to make Salisbury a city center destination where people will spend the day or weekend instead of just a few hours.
At the March 1 meeting, DSI proposed that the boundaries include the entire Municipal Services District, the area officially considered downtown, in addition to the Napoleon Bonaparte McCanless House at 619 Main Street South, which is working to become an event and wedding venue. However, youth safety issues discussed at the March 1 meeting prompted the board to consider starting small.
At Tuesday’s meeting, DSI presented a revised map that tightened the boundaries to address those concerns. In the MSD, the new map shows the neighborhood bounded by the intersection block of Jackson and Innes Streets, Fisher and Church Streets, Horah and Lee Streets, and Fisher and Cemetery Streets.
DSI has changed opening hours from noon to midnight from Sunday to Saturday, with drinking hours starting at Bell Tower Green Park at 5 p.m. Council members eventually agreed to delay this start time by an hour during the warmer months so that families could enjoy an extra hour of sunshine. without having drunk.
Additionally, DSI Director Sada Stewart Troutman said she has spoken with local church leaders whose churches will fall within the district. She said those leaders expressed no need to oppose the district. Businesses or establishments may choose not to be active participants in the neighborhood, with signage required to reflect this.
Karen Hobson, former executive director of the Salisbury Historic Foundation, said she was for the district with some reservations. She was happy to see that the “overly wide” area originally proposed was tightened and opening hours not extended until 2am as originally proposed. But she noted a number of alleys and car parks included in the neighborhood and asked council to consider excluding them for safety reasons.
Salisbury resident Tom Overcash said the town would be in “serious trouble” if it passed the area and warned of more opportunities for public drunkenness. Overcash also asked how the city could tell what was in district cups.
Overcash said he was an elder in his church, but enjoyed a sip of whiskey every night.
“But that’s going to be a problem,” he continued. “And we have to ask ourselves is this good for Salisbury? And I think the answer is no.
Cheryl Goins, owner of Pottery 101, said 2020 has been a devastating year for many downtown businesses that still haven’t recovered. She supports the district because of the revenue it can generate. Goins also listed the businesses she represented on Tuesday evening whose owners are also in favor of such a district. These included AnnaCraig Boutique, Cut Up and Dye, Heart of Salisbury, Skinny Wheels, Walser Technology, The French Nest, South Main Book Company, Rowan Cellular, Oxford and Lee, Backcountry and Beyond, Old Sarum Gallery, Kitchen Store, 3 jem’s Boutique, Thread Shed, Hive, Abigail’s Bakery, Salisbury Salt Spa, Mean Mug Coffee Company, Ultimate Sports Apparel, Merle Norman and Timeless Wigs and Things.
Chris Ostle, owner of Fish Bowl, said he was in favor with some hesitation. He was concerned about drunk driving and added that he often had to stop customers from getting into their cars to go home after drinking.
Tiffany Day, owner of SHUG’s in Brooklyn South Square, said she favors the neighborhood, which could promote activity and patronage between businesses while attracting new ones.
Samantha Haspel, a DSI board member who also helped bring that proposal to the board, said she was standing for re-election Tuesday night as a private citizen and bar owner. Drunk driving is an issue close to her heart, she said, but added that customers can get into their vehicles after a night of drinking with or without the neighborhood. Additionally, businesses understand that it is a privilege, and ABC licenses require merchants to monitor the amount of alcohol a person has consumed.
Haspel said there were a lot of understandable fears, but spending time in Kannapolis will show those fears have not materialized.
Council Member David Post inquired about additional staffing and costs. Stewart Troutman said the extent of additional work needed in city services is minimal. In addition to staff support from the Salisbury Police Department and Public Works Department, the Finance Department will provide budget support, City Engineer Wendy Brindle will continue communications with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and communications staff will help promote the district.
Acting Director Brian Hiatt added that in discussions with Kannapolis City staff, it is not anticipated that additional staff will be required for the Salisbury District.
Board member Anthony Smith commended DSI for their “due diligence” in gathering feedback and doing much of the groundwork before presenting the proposal to the Board. Smith added that he supports any initiative where groups come together to creatively address economic impact while being responsible.
Council member Harry McLaughlin Jr. said he liked the idea of helping businesses “survive and stay ahead,” but added that other initiatives were also needed. He shared his concern for the safety of young people, noting his own testimony of drunk community members coming to his store, McLaughlin’s Grocery, which sells alcohol. McLaughlin said it was not about Salisbury being first, but about being the one to succeed.
At the March 1 meeting, Lauren Alexander-Persse of YSUP Rowan, a nonprofit aimed at addressing youth substance use, raised concerns about the influence the district might have. young people’s attitudes towards alcohol consumption. She called for a few compromises, including opaque cups. Stewart Troutman told council members on Tuesday that there are options, posting a white compostable cup option and a bright yellow cup.
Council members discussed at length the boundaries of the district and whether the district includes both sides of each sidewalk and whether the Rowan Museum should be part of the district.
City Attorney Graham Corriher and Stewart Troutman said they will return to council on April 5 with a cleaned up copy of the ordinance, which will also outline the district boundaries.
Mayor Karen Alexander was not present for Tuesday’s meeting because she is in Washington, DC for the National League of Cities conference.