Royal Oak, MI

New Social District Allows For Alcohol Consumption On Downtown Royal Oak Streets

Becca Ballard

The city of Royal Oak approved a new social district for downtown Royal Oak. This new social district will permit people to consume alcohol outside while downtown. Individuals will now be allowed to have drinks in marked cups and walk along Main Street as well as the connecting side streets as well. This new district will increase foot traffic and make better use of outdoor dining regulations and social distancing protocols. People will be able to walk around with a drink and come back to a restaurant once their table is ready.

A special zone with signs will be created to show people specifically where they can walk and drink. Signs will remind social district visitors that each to-go cup, which Royal Oak's Downtown Development Authority is designing, should not be taken into other establishments. Each cup allowed is for one-time use and available only at participating social district businesses. A list of businesses participating will be available soon. People will be prohibited from bringing their own cups to drink from in the outdoor social district and the district will be monitored closely.

The idea was made possible by a new law signed last year by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, allowing outdoor drinking areas as a way to maintain social distancing while giving an economic boost to bars and restaurants struggling during the pandemic. This will be especially great during the summer months, but year round as well. It gives people a chance to be out and not have to worry about making a reservation, or not have to stand around and wait 20 minutes for a table.

The new space should be up and running sometime in May. No specific date is determined.

The new district will extend along both South Washington, South Main Street and the surrounding side streets; connecting about 40 bars and restaurants. This zone allows outdoor drinking from 11 A.M. to 10 P.M., which is previously illegal in most places in Michigan. The new area will include the Farmer's Market as well as the new park being constructed currently. Royal Oak is one of the few local cities implementing such a space.

With the pandemic limiting most indoor activities, this new district will be an exciting addition in the community. This social disctrict will let people gather in a safer and more responsible way. Cities are now allowed to create these social districts for outdoor drinking thanks to a new Michigan law, originally signed to promote outdoor gatherings with social distancing.

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Photo By: Becca Ballard

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