Alcohol consumption

Brighton officials are considering a ‘social district’ for drinking

In the spring, residents of Brighton could be allowed to consume alcohol purchased from local bars and restaurants in designated outdoor public spaces.

City officials are considering creating a “social district” downtown, and the topic is expected to be discussed at a future city council meeting, likely next month.

If Brighton decides to create a social district, it would be following the example of other communities in the state which benefited from state legislation passed last summer. Michigan has established social district permits that allow businesses to sell alcohol to customers who then consume it in public spaces such as sidewalks and parks within social district boundaries.

“I think it’s important to emphasize that social district legislation is customizable, every community does it differently,” said city management assistant Henry Outlaw.

Outlaw said the location of the social district is “up in the air,” but some ideas are floating around.

“Ultimately it will depend on what people are interested in. There is a feeling of including Mill Pond Park, but what that looks like, I don’t know.”

He said feedback from business owners and residents of Brighton will be essential.

“The most important thing I can stress is the importance of having the conversation,” Outlaw said. “I strongly encourage people to call, visit the city’s website and engage with us.”

City officials began discussing the possibility of creating a social district in Brighton at meetings last year and tabled the conversation.

“The feeling was that it was an interesting idea, but let’s take the time to see how it plays out in other communities,” Outlaw said. “We want to make sure that whatever we do, we support the safety of businesses and residents.”

Brighton officials plan to create a 'social quarter' where people can consume alcohol purchased from local bars and restaurants.  Although they haven't made a decision on potential locations, one idea is the area around Mill Pond.

He said public safety concerns should be taken into account.

“It would be similar to the worry you would normally find in a bar or restaurant,” Outlaw said. “You definitely want to monitor overconsumption and underage consumption. There are a variety of ways to go about it, like having our police monitor and make sure our businesses follow regulations.”

Dave Norman, owner of Lu & Carl’s and Stout Irish Pub, expressed mixed feelings about the idea.

Norman said he suspected a social neighborhood would drive business to the bars and restaurants closest to the area, but not benefit other downtown businesses.

“I think it’s a good idea and it’s creating excitement, but how is it going to affect Stout? They’re not going to buy there if it’s too far. Will that going to keep customers away from certain places?” said Norman.

Peter Ginopolis owns Bar-BQ Ginopolis on Main Street near Mill Pond.

Ginopolis said he welcomes the city’s help, but he urges officials to think about it carefully.

“I think everything is good to bring people to the area,” he said. “I’m open to anything at the moment. It’s been a disaster. Anything we can do to get people here is good.”

Ginopolis said everything the city does should benefit all kinds of downtown businesses, not just bars and restaurants.

“It can’t just be good for the restaurants. It has to be good for the bookstore, the grocery store, everyone,” he said.

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Last summer Brighton officials closed Main Street on Fridays and Saturdays to traffic in a bid to help local businesses. It has become a temporary pedestrian street.

Some small business owners have lobbied for the road to reopen when the closure hasn’t produced more foot traffic to their businesses. The city has reduced the road closure to only occur on Saturdays during the Farmers’ Market.

Town of Howell officials have also put in place measures to help downtown businesses and community events.

“At the last meeting, the city council waived special event fee reimbursements that the city charges to assist with work events, in which staff assist civic events by closing streets, assisting with trash cleanup , etc., until December 2021,” City manager Paul DeBuff said in an email.

“While this is of course dependent on any possible statewide restrictions on public gatherings, we hope this frees up event planners to organize popular events that draw many people to our downtown area and in the wider Howell business community.”

In June, Howell streamlined its civic event application process for requests from downtown businesses to use sidewalks and alleys for dining or sales, to hold pop-up events and to use spaces. exteriors for small civic events, which lasted until last October.

The change allowed the city manager’s office to review and approve applications rather than requiring city council approval.

“A few businesses that benefited from the new temporary policy were the First Baptist Church ‘Trunk or Treat’ and the historic Howell ‘Drive-In Movies’ theater in their backyard. We heard rave reviews about these events, especially about the drive-in concept, which helped the theater overcome pandemic restrictions in a very creative way that the community really appreciated,” DeBuff said.

The historic owner of the Howell Theatre, Tyler DePerro, has said he wants to bring back the drive-thru movies later this year.

“Most of our movies last summer sold out and received rave reviews as many families got to experience a drive-in for the first time. We would like to bring back the HHT Pop Up Drive In early spring, but it will depend on availability of a location to host,” DePerro said in an email.

Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Timar at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @jennifer_timar.