Social district narrowly passes, mayor votes to break tie

Published 9:34 am Tuesday, October 11, 2022

City of Washington council voted 3-2 in favor of implementing a social district in downtown Washington. Mayor Donald Sadler voted in favor of a resolution approving a plan for a social district. Sadler voted, because council’s vote was split – Mayor Pro-Tem Richard Brooks and Councilman Mike Renn voted in favor, but Councilmen Bobby Roberson and William Pitt voted against. Councilwoman Lou Hodges was absent from the meeting. The vote was taken at city council’s regular meeting on Monday evening (Oct. 10)

A social district is a designated area where people can imbibe on city streets without being reprimanded. Social districts will have clearly marked parameters, designated hours of the day and specialty cups. Participating businesses (ABC permittees and unpermitted) must display signage indicating their level of participation. 

What are your thoughts on the social district allowing consumption of alcoholic drinks in designated areas downtown?

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The social district in Washington will be limited to the Harbor District and will be in operation on Thursdays and Fridays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturdays from from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. The social district is anticipated to begin around Thanksgiving in time for Harbor District Holidays. 

Meg Howdy, executive director of the Harbor District Alliance, proposed the idea of adding a social district to downtown. 

“We look at this as an opportunity to better serve our visitors and residents holistically as we continue to plan for the future.  We hope to continue to look at everything that may affect the full Harbor District, not just a particular business or property.  If we continue to work together, we can weather this economy and bounce back from the hardships of Covid.  Our small business owners lead the way in giving back to our community. They employ local residents, they donate to local nonprofits, and their tax revenues support the community through services such as police, fire, etc,” Howdy wrote in an email to the Daily News. 

Belinda Summerlin with Two Rivers Alehouse said, “We are excited to see all the development happening in Washington. Creating social districts will be just one more way to allow the community to gather and will also attract visitors to the area as we continue to grow as a destination. It’s encouraging to see that many other towns in the state have successfully implemented the concept with positive results.”

Owner and Operator of Market Street Pub, Mandy Gurkin said, “We’re very excited about the idea of the social district coming to our little town! Our hope is that it will provide us with new ways to work with the other businesses in the district, as well as draw in more visitors to Washington and encourage them to explore all that downtown has to offer.” 

In August, the City of Greenville added two social districts to “increase economic activity and vibrancy” in downtown. There is the Uptown Social District and the Dickinson Avenue Social District. They operate independently but follow the same schedule of Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The social districts began on Thursday, Oct. 6, according to the City of Greenville. The Uptown District includes E Third Street, E Fourth Street and E Fifth Street where they intersect with Evans Street and Cotanche Street.  The Dickinson Avenue District includes Pitt Street, W Eighth Street and Clark Street where they intersect with Dickinson Avenue.