City rolls out downtown social district

Published 11:23 am Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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Organizers have been busy preparing for the rollout of the Washington Downtown Social District, allowing for the consumption of alcohol at certain participating businesses in designated areas downtown.

The new district goes into effect May 4 at 5 p.m., just in time for tourist season, according to Washington Harbor District Alliance director Meg Howdy. Current boundaries include parts of Main Street, North Market Street and a portion of Water Street near the Washington waterfront.

North Carolina’s General Assembly passed House Bill 890, allowing local governments to create social districts, a defined area in which a person may consume alcoholic beverages during scheduled times. Gov. Roy Cooper signed the bill into law in Sept. 2021.

Washington City Council adopted its social district in December on a 3-2 vote.

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“With the passage of HB890 the creation of social districts have provided an additional tool for businesses to increase sales and provide a more dynamic experience,” said Washington City Manager Jonathan Russell. “We are excited about the new ordinance being implemented and look forward to visitors enjoying the harbor district along with all of the great things Washington has to offer.”

Alcoholic beverages consumed in the Washington social district must be sold by an ABC permittee located within the district and served in an approved cup featuring logos of the Washington Downtown Social District and the business. Outside alcohol and containers are not permitted.

Door and window stickers downtown will help visitors identify participating businesses within the district, such as those establishments selling alcoholic beverages as well as retail locations that might allow drinks inside their store.

“Any alcohol in open containers must be disposed of before exiting the District or entering a vehicle,” according to the WHDA website. “You can dispose of your Social District cup in any trash can on the street, or trash cans provided for use by the public within a business.  Should you choose to save your cup as a souvenir, all liquid inside of it must be disposed of before leaving Social District boundaries.”

Washington Downtown Social District Hours are Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday, 5-10 p.m.; and Saturday, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.