KANNAPOLIS — Beginning this weekend, people who purchase alcoholic beverages from a licensed establishment in downtown Kannapolis can sip them while strolling the West Avenue landscape.
The city council this week designated a “social district” in downtown Kannapolis, taking advantage of legislation passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed into law this month by Governor Roy Cooper.
The neighborhood will allow customers who purchase an alcoholic beverage from Chophouse 101, Sabor Latin Street Grill, Old Armor Beer Company or any other ABC-authorized business to take the beverage outside the restaurant and enjoy it on the sidewalks or in public spaces within neighborhood boundaries. .
“We built the downtown area with the big sidewalks and plazas and all the crosswalks, the downtown gathering places,” City Manager Mike Legg said. “It gives people the opportunity to enjoy these places in ways they couldn’t before. It used to be that you could buy a beer at Old Armor for example and you couldn’t cross the street where you have a big plaza and outdoor seating and all that there. This allows some to perform and more places to gather. From that perspective, we think it’s good.
The new neighborhood includes parts of West Avenue, Oak Avenue, Vance Street, Laureate Way, Cannon Baller Way, West B Street and Main Street. The city is currently working on the installation of signage indicating the limits of the social district.
Kannapolis is among the first cities in North Carolina to implement a social neighborhood.
“We have been following this for some time. In fact, we considered asking for special legislation before it looked like the state assembly was going to do it statewide,” Legg said. “That kind of thing was always on our radar screen. When we saw it passing we started to prepare, but honestly we couldn’t do much until we saw what the final legislation was.
Kyle Lingafelt, co-owner of the Old Armor Beer Company, recalls discussing the social district concept with city officials when his brewery opened about two years ago.
“It’s been a topic of conversation since 2019,” Lingafelt said. “When the state passed it, we were on board and ready to go.”
Lingafelt said the city got a little taste of what a social neighborhood might look like when Old Armor held its St. Patrick’s Day celebration earlier this year. The pub crawl-style event allowed patrons to enjoy the brewery’s beers outside of its physical confines.
“We had business owners asking if we could do it again every weekend,” Lingafelt said. “It made it a fun environment and attracted people from all over. We had people from Charlotte. We did it well and we did it well.
Carlos Hernandez, owner of Chophouse 101, said he expects the new social district to provide a boost to downtown businesses.
“I think it’s going to be great for the city and for us as well,” Hernandez said. “No one has done this before, not even Charlotte. It will definitely help our business. It’s going to be great and I think our sales will increase.
The social district will benefit breweries and restaurants selling alcohol, but Lingafelt said it will boost all downtown businesses.
“We’re for it, but the stores are more for it because it’s going to bring more people downtown,” Lingafelt said.
Since Kannapolis is on the cutting edge of North Carolina’s new law, Legg admits the city will be somewhat of a test case and anticipates there will be some adaptations along the way.
“We will partner with the CBA officials and the (alcohol enforcement) division and we will make improvements over time if we need to make improvements,” Legg said. “That’s sort of the game plan. It will be a work in progress to some extent.
The city has already put in place a number of rules for the district:
• Establishments authorized by ABC must ensure that they meet all legal requirements for registration and restriction of the consumption of alcoholic beverages. The property can only serve two beer/wine drinks or one alcoholic beverage to a guest at a time.
• Beverages must be purchased and consumed within the West Avenue District boundaries.
• Anyone having a drink in the West Avenue designated district must dispose of the drink before leaving the district.
• Beverages must be in specially labeled cups that will be sold by establishments in the West Avenue District. They must be less than 16 ounces.
• Beverages will only be permitted in the neighborhood from 10 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday and noon to midnight on Sunday.
• Once the customer leaves the establishment with the beverage container, the customer may not enter any other downtown building or vehicle without discarding the beverage.
• Kannapolis Police Officers will enforce West Avenue District restrictions.
The city says these bylaws will help the downtown continue to be a gathering destination for families.
“We still want to emphasize that this does not change downtown safety in any way,” Legg said. “It’s still a family environment. We think this will likely go unnoticed by the general public, but specific corporate patrons will be able to take advantage of it. »
While the Kannapolis Police Department will be responsible for enforcing Social District rules, businesses will also participate.
“We have to make sure one bad apple doesn’t ruin it for the rest of us,” Lingafelt said.
The social quarter will be in place just in time for Old Armor’s Oktoberfest celebration, which begins at 11 a.m. today.