“I don’t think we’ve done our due diligence,” said Sharon Hightower, council representative for the Greensboro District 1, in YES! Weekly Thursday.
Hightower was speaking about the December 21 city council meeting, in which the council voted 7-2 to establish a “social district” in downtown Greensboro, in which pedestrians can walk around with alcoholic beverages in streets. Designated take-out cups from March 2022.
Yes votes were from Mayor Nancy Vaughan, Pro Mayor Tem Yvonne Johnson, Justin Outling from District 3, Nancy Hoffman from District 4, Tammi Thurm from District 5 and At-Large representatives Marikay Abuzuaiter and Hugh Holston . The two opposing votes came from Goldie Wells of Hightower and District 2.
Two hours and 20 minutes after the meeting began, Mayor Vaughan announced that the next item was “an ordinance enacting Chapter 26, Section 11 of the Greensboro Ordinance Code to be titled Social District.” Vaughan then began asking the city attorney for a “brief rundown” but as she said those two words Mayor Pro Tem Johnson said to “move the article”.
“Madam Mayor, as soon as you get the big picture, I have some concerns,” Hightower said.
“Okay, but keep in mind it was proposed by Mrs Johnson,” Vaughan said.
“This is something that was recently authorized by the legislature,” said City Attorney Chuck Watts, “and also that the staff are interested in doing, so it can be done.”
Vaughan then asked Hightower to voice his concerns.
“I think that’s a recipe for disaster,” Hightower said. “I think when we say we’re concerned about the acts of violence that have happened in nightclubs and other places that sell alcohol, and now we say, let’s have a social space where they can just go.” walk around and take their alcohol from place to place, and it doesn’t seem content.
Deputy City Manager for Public Safety Trey Davis offered what he called clarity. “We have worked with the companies that are inside the imprint of the card identified for the social district. “
Davis then said that the hours of operation for the social district would be from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. and that “if a person purchases an alcoholic beverage at one establishment, they cannot walk into another establishment with that drink.”
The text of the ordinance, which has been posted with the meeting’s agenda, also states that beverage containers must clearly identify the establishment from which they were purchased, display a “logo or other” unique to the Greensboro Social District, “that they can It must not be glass, cannot contain more than 16 fluid ounces and must display” in a font of at least 12 points, the statement, Drink in a manner responsible – Be 21. “
It also states that “only alcoholic beverages purchased from a licensee located in or near the downtown Greensboro social district may be possessed and consumed.”
Hightower expressed concern that the orderly “trusts the person to throw his drink” before entering another restaurant, “but if he paid $ 15 for his drink, he won’t throw it away. not “.
Hightower then asked if the ordinance would allow someone to have a drink at a restaurant in Center City Park.
“Center City Park is not in the footprint of the social district,” replied Davis. “There will be signs advising people that alcohol is not allowed in these areas.”
Mayor Vaughan pointed out that new statewide legislation allows social districts to operate until midnight, but the city chose to end it at 9 p.m. “to prevent people from wandering or wandering around. to wait in the club lines “with alcohol later in the evening.
Hightower replied that “it seems we are getting more and more cowardly with this – we allow a lot of things with alcohol, but we criminalize marijuana to the point where people are thrown in jail for years.”
Goldie Wells then said his copy of the agenda did not include a map and asked Deputy General Manager Kim Sowell to describe the area encompassed by the Social District.
“If you think of it as a square it goes from Greene to Market to Davie and turn left. It integrates the Le Bauer park but does not integrate the Center City park. Then he returns to Elm Street to the Tangier Center. “
This was the Council’s first public discussion on the matter and did not take place until after the first motion for approval was presented. Hightower expressed concern about “just hearing about it tonight” and “it just got off the agenda, with no working session on it, and now you’re saying Le Bauer is included but not the city center ”.
Nancy Hoffman, from District 4, said the reason for the inclusion of the Bauer is because Café Europa opens there and the park includes two kiosks serving food and alcohol.
Hightower pointed out that B. Christopher’s on Elm is inside the neighborhood, and Le Bauer is one of them, “but Center City, while being sandwiched between them, is not. I think I know why Center City is not included. I’m not going to say it out loud right now, but I think I know why. “
Justin Outling also commented that the neighborhood map was “not very contiguous”. Tammi Thurm asked what would be done for people who walk out of B. Christopher’s with their drinks and “walk through” Center City Park to reach LeBauer. Trey Davis responded that there would be both signs and public safety officers to redirect them around the excluded park.
Wells expressed concern about “people walking the streets with drinks” and her fear that the city does not have “enough ambassadors and police to keep up with this.”
The ordinance then went 7-2.
In a phone conversation Thursday with this writer, Sharon Hightower reiterated her concerns, although she did not elaborate on her statement on the exclusion from Center City Park.
She also pointed out that drinking in pedestrian areas can lead not only to violence, but also to ignoring social distancing. “People are already so bad about it. I just left Friendly Shopping Center, and I kept stepping back and telling people to back off.
Shortly after speaking to Hightower, this writer exchanged messages with Tal Blevins, owner of the downtown Machete restaurant, who said he did not plan for his establishment to participate in the Social District by serving as l alcohol to take away.
“I’m not against it per se, but I don’t see the benefits for local businesses or the city center as a whole. It is still illegal to bring alcoholic beverages into an establishment that already serves alcohol, and it is not clear from the order whether you can take an alcoholic beverage from the street to a business that does not. liquor license, so I’m not sure how this will positively affect retailers. I’m also not sure this will help individual restaurants and bars, as someone who has to stay put can get a few drinks and a snack, and now it might just be a take-out drink for the road. Seems like it’s just about making an easy way to go to a mobile bar and take your drink with you, so it’s just about drinking on the sidewalk.
Blevins also pointed out the potential safety and health issues.
“What is the plan to monitor and respond to potentially dangerous situations when they arise? There are also sanitation issues, such as will there be enough bins for empty containers and increased access to public toilets? I just don’t see the social district as defined as having a significant positive impact on downtown businesses. Unfortunately, this probably makes the area more prone to abuse that could potentially drive buyers away. “