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‘Social districts’ aim to attract people to northern Michigan downtowns

Gaylord

The city of Gaylord is adding its name to more than 60 communities across the state who have adopted social districts.

Last year, the state passed a law essentially allowing public drinking on Main Streets that are designated social districts.

If approved by the liquor control commission, these areas will permit restaurant and bar patrons to bring their drinks outside and consume them in public spaces.

Local business owner Casey Buckleitner helped introduce the idea to the city in the hopes of boosting tourism.

“We’re trying to be somewhat progressive and on the leading edge of doing something cool,” he says.

Gaylord’s city council voted to create their own drinking “Stadtplatz,” a german word for ‘town square’, which goes with its alpine theme. Buckleitner says the district would be limited to the city’s Main Street and about ten local businesses could be involved.

“A lot of tourist communities seem to close up between five and six o’clock and this is something we think might drive traffic, keep our doors open and make it a little bit busier downtown,” he says.

Still, some council members worry about encouraging over-consumption and the potential liability to the city.

Communities in northern Michigan including Grayling, Petoskey and Beaver Island are also adopting social districts.