Dexter City Council considering downtown social districts

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| 1 min | by Doug Marrin |

Looking ahead to the winter months combined with the uncertainty of state-mandated safety protocols, the City of Dexter is considering the establishment of social districts downtown.

On July 1, 2020, Governor Whitmer signed into law the Social District Act which allows cities to setup spaces where customers could move freely with alcoholic drinks in designated outdoor areas.

Dexter currently has a similar provision with the creation of parklettes, parking space temporarily designated for outdoor business use to increase customer volume during the pandemic social spacing restrictions. However, should the restrictions continue into winter, use of the parklettes could become problematic.

In her report to the City Council at their August 24, 2020, meeting, Community Development Manager, Michelle Aniol, stated, “Continued use of on-street parking on Main Street through the winter comes with challenges. Snow plowing for one, is of primary concern. The force generated by city trucks plowing the snow has the potential to push the water-well barricades into the outdoor service areas, which would compromise public safety, and result in damage to the barricades and businesses’ private property.”

This is the first of three options the City Staff has recommended to Council for a downtown social district, which is highlighted in red. The other two options are essentially the same, connecting the three businesses, but with variations.

In an effort to increase downtown consumer traffic in the winter months, the City’s staff has researched the recent legislation regarding social districts. The City reports that three downtown businesses would meet the qualifications for a social district permit – Aubree’s, The Beer Grotto, and the Dexter Pub. If the City elects to pursue the establishment of a social district, it would first require approval by the State. Local businesses then would have to first get approval from the City and then apply for a permit from the State.

“Social Districts may not solve the outdoor dining dilemma, but it could be one potential lifeline for the City Council to offer,” Aniol stated in her report.

The City is continuing to work out the details and feasibility of social districts with no official decision yet made.