Saline Social District Decision Delayed

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Any future Social District for Saline is going to be delayed until at least August. City Council found Monday evening that too many questions are still unanswered.

“At this point now we’ve received input from all the businesses with potential involvement in the district. We have five possible designees that are interested in seeking permits through the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, and sample resolution for Council’s consideration,” City Manager Colleen O’Toole said. “It’ll be Brecken, Mac’s Acadian Seafood Shack, Dan’s Downtown Tavern, Smokehouse 52 and Salt Stream Brewery.”

The goal set forth by Saline Main Street is to adapt a form of social district where people would be allowed to consume alcoholic beverages on certain sections of the sidewalk while they are window shopping or waiting to be served at a restaurant. The goal is to transplant part of the foot traffic attracted to restaurants south of Michigan Avenue to the north side, thus spreading the economic boon that Umbrella Square has created.

The map that was presented to Council, which highlights the social district boundaries in pink and the streets involved in light purple, is also constantly changing as the plan keeps getting updated. It was also revealed that a church and several businesses within the proposed new social district, not included in the five that are potential designees for the district, had yet to be contacted for consultation as of the July 19 meeting.

Image Credit: Saline Main Street

The current plan is to have the district open from noon to 10:00 p.m., Mondays through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Saturdays and to be closed all day Sunday. The district would also be closed for Summerfest, Octoberfest and holidays like Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.

If it is approved there would be no specific end date, unlike Umbrella Square. The state law that created these districts would allow the city to keep the district until 2025, according to O’Toole.

Councilor Janet Dillon pointed out that type of district was invented to bring business to restaurants who were struggling with the lock-downs that were brought on to fight the Coronavirus pandemic, leading her to question the need for a new social district.

“We [the restaurants] are at one hundred percent capacity, but [the restaurants] are still in arrears,”

Saline Main Street Director Holli Andrews said; arguing that the still often-dire financial considerations that restaurants are in mean that they need as many tools to help as possible to get back to a healthy financial situation.

But concerns over safety and liability remain. Chief Hart said that restaurants serving alcohol would still be required to cut off patrons who were overserved. Some Councilors remain worried that if someone is served a drink on the sidewalk they may refill it with alcohol from a flask or from a bottle in a purse if this is approved.

When asked about the possibility of this, and people leaving the district to drive drunk, Police Chief Jarrod Hart said “that people intent on doing that “are gonna do this regardless of whether there’s a social district.”

The decision to approve or reject the district was ultimately postponed by Council until an August 2 work meeting at 6 p.m., in the City Council Chamber. Jack Ceo was the only Councilor who voted against the postponement.

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