CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – It’s just a matter of time until legally drinking in the streets becomes a reality in the Queen City.

The Charlotte City Council passed social districts back in August.

The next step is launching the application process for districts like Plaza Midwood, NoDa, Uptown, and South End to apply.

The question now is: What would a social district look like in action?

Queen City News took a road trip to find out.

“Ah, drinking in the street,” one man said on the streets of downtown Columbus, Ohio.

About 430 miles from Charlotte, thousands of sports fans legally drink in the streets.

“[It gives you] the opportunity to see different places, but you might not have been able to if you had been sitting at one bar the whole time.”

Last September, Columbus City Council passed the city’s first Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, or DORA. It’s similar to what Charlotte could have.

“Instead of pouring a guy a drink in a rocks glass, you pour him a drink in a plastic cup,” the owner of Boston’s Tim Emery said.

Three hours before any sporting event, bars and restaurants within a designated area are allowed to sell alcohol to customers, who can then walk outside and drink in public.

“It could be up for five, six times a week if the schedule works out accordingly,” General manager of Nada Gary Petroff said.

“I think what our local lawmaker did was quite innovative, and I will use the work ingenious to try to better position and to help our small businesses,” district director of Columbus Small Business Administration Everett Woodel said.

While today, Columbus’ downtown is thriving, it is a drastic change from the empty streets and vacant bars and restaurants just two years ago.

“Yeah, that was one of the hardest hit markets or segments of are small businesses. They were devastated,” Woodel said.

“The pandemic was especially difficult in urban areas like where we are; the events were shut down, people weren’t in the office, so it was a very difficult time for us,” Emery said.

Columbus approved the DORA to help small businesses recover from pandemic losses. Within a month, the city council there received its first application.

By September 2021, the city had its first-ever DORA in its Arena District.

By Sept. — the city had its first-ever DORA: in its arena district.

“Being more relaxed to help support our small businesses during the pandemic is critical,” Remy said.

The DORA spans several blocks and includes nine participating businesses. A hockey, baseball, and soccer stadium are within walking distance.

“People just walk up, and we use the square, and we just have people buy them as they want, and then we put signs out as they were walking up in either direction just do that they know that we are here,” general manager of Goodwood Lexie Hall said.

Councilmember Remy said what is considered a significant success now didn’t come without some pushback from residents in the area and some concerns about rowdiness.

“Some of the concerns were that this was going to turn into a mardi gras-type atmosphere. I thought it was kind of funny because I just didn’t understand it. It’s not necessarily our culture, so, fortunately, it hasn’t ended up that way. Would have been shocked if it had,” Remy said. “People were concerned about litter, people were concerned about recycling, and as of yet, we have yet to have a single complaint.”

Before the DORA’s launch time, businesses were stocking their to-go carts and bar tops with special cups provided by the district.

Each ate labeled with the month’s date and is compostable.

“We signed up with the Arena District; they drop off the cups and the little stickers. We re-sticker the cups with the month each time we go out,” Hall said.

While walking through the DORA in full action, Queen City noticed a few things – an increase in police presence at crosswalks and some rule-breaking.

Several people were carrying unmarked cups or their personal cans of alcohol.

“When you have people that have been vibing maybe too much, you don’t have to worry about them drifting anywhere,” one woman said.

Business owners say it’s hard to quantify precisely how much money they make regarding the revenue earned from the DORA. The general census shows about a 10% increase in sales.

“It’s not a mind-blowing increase in sales, but in this business, any extra revenue helps,” Petroff said.

Back in Charlotte, groups throughout the city are ready to start their version of a DORA.

“We are ready. We are much on the side of let’s do it,” Plaza Midwood Merchants Association Board member Russel Fergusson said.

The association is taking the lead in designing its neighborhood’s social district.

Members are sorting through the same concern voiced in Columbus more than a year ago.

“In our meetings, too, it’s like, ‘what about the trash?'” Pizza Peel owner Will Bigham said.

“There have been some concerns from the neighborhood regarding: ‘will there be more trash?’ Will it lead to more noisiness and things like that? As we walked through the hypotheticals on that, we really don’t think that’s the case,” Fergusson said.