WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) — Could Washington be the next city to establish a social district?
In July, Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law a bill that clarifies how and where municipalities can establish social districts. Those are areas where patrons can purchase alcoholic beverages from North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Commission-licensed businesses and carry them in specially-branded cups while walking between other participating establishments within a designated area and time frame.
Washington isn’t the only Eastern North Carolina municipality that has considered implementing a social district. The Greenville City Council voted unanimously in August to approve social districts for the Uptown Greenville and Dickinson Avenue areas.
Meg Howdy, executive director of the Washington Harbor District Alliance, spoke to City Council in August about the possibility of establishing a social district, touting it as an “extra economic driver for our small businesses.”
“It allows for Washington to attract new visitors,” Howdy said. “This is not something that’s new. Thirteen states already have entertainment districts. So this is not something that is being tried first in North Carolina. … It’s hopefully going to incentivize our retail businesses to stay open a little bit longer. It’s also going to continue to attract more businesses to our downtown.”
The process of possibly establishing a social district in Washington is still in its preliminary stages. City Council hasn’t taken any formal action on the idea. Should the city move forward with it, there will be plenty of details to iron out, including what the social district boundaries would look like.
Howdy presented some possible boundaries to City Council.
“We would choose what our boundary would be,” Howdy said. “And this is not just a downtown thing. This could be if we had a new mixed-use property that happened on 15th Street. You could make a social district there as well.
“The great thing about being within the social district of downtown, we have designated businesses right near each other. We’re kind of in a condensed area.”
Howdy said the suggested hours for a social district in Washington would be 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday through Friday and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday.