Walking around downtown Fayetteville with an open container of alcohol in specially designated neighborhoods may be a possibility in the future. As a result of the recently passed House Bill 890, the Cool Spring Downtown District is exploring how Fayetteville could benefit from a social district, which would allow open container alcoholic beverages purchased within the boundaries of the social district.
The Cool Spring Downtown District, Senator Kirk deViere, Mayor Mitch Colvin, Councilman Shakeyla Ingram, other elected officials and several downtown business owners were invited to hear a presentation from the North Carolina Downtown Development Association on the bill and[possibleimplementationinFayetteville[possibleimplementationinFayetteville[lamiseenœuvrepossibleàFayetteville[possibleimplementationinFayetteville
House Bill 890 allows cities to create open container neighborhoods for alcohol. To do this, the governing body of a local government unit can create a designated social district that contains a common area where people can drink alcoholic beverages; the alcoholic beverage must be purchased from an ABC-licensed business in the social district. People can’t bring their drinks into the neighborhood and they can’t carry drinks out of the neighborhood.
To establish a social neighborhood, seven things are necessary: signage must be installed at the boundaries of the neighborhood, all beverages must be in clearly labeled non-glass containers and under 16 oz., the local government must pass a local ordinance that establishes the district boundaries and the days/times that are approved for open container liquor, and this district map and plan must be submitted to the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.
Looking at Fayetteville, the most important issue that preoccupied the presenters was the establishment of the district and its boundaries.
“I think one of the biggest challenges in Fayetteville will be where you put the signs and where you put the boundaries just because you have such a wide streetscape. I think figuring out where you want to put those signs is going to probably be significant,” said Jason Epleym, president of Benchmark Planning.
Potential problems for a social neighborhood could include litter, public intoxication, and illegal filling of containers from “personal bottles”. However, the biggest problem that Ray Gibbs, Executive Director, Forward High Point, saw in these social neighborhoods was the lack of participation.
“It’s not something that will work for every city. It’s not a magic bullet. And as we always say in downtown development, there’s no magic bullet,” said said Gibbs. “But, you know, if you put one into effect and only one or two of your bars, restaurants or pubs participate, is there really enough to do it and does that make sense?”
Bianca Shoneman, President and CEO of Cool Spring Downtown District, said the next step is to send out a survey for feedback to determine if creating a social neighborhood is something residents and landlords businesses of Fayetteville want in their downtown area.
“As a collective, we want to make sure that landlords, elected officials, residents, and of course, our community as a whole are all behind this effort because downtown is the heart of the city, and we should have a concerted effort to move us forward and generally have community consensus before we emerge victorious,” Shoneman said. “We’re looking to do it probably one day – if we think it’s ready to go – by order in late summer, early fall.”