The city of Saline has been brewing up the idea of a social district for a couple of years, and after enduring numerous delays, it’s finally becoming a reality. The city council recently passed the motion unanimously, bringing a new kind of community spirit to downtown Saline.

The Saline South Ann Arbor Street Social District is a designated outdoor area–jointly managed by the city and its partner, Saline Main Street– where folks can enjoy a “to-go” alcoholic beverage from participating businesses. The effort is all about enhancing the local economy and creating a more vibrant social scene that benefits citizens and downtown businesses alike.

Location and Details

The district’s boundaries are defined in an operations plan that was required by Michigan state law. Once in operation, the boundaries will be clearly marked with signage and movable barriers.  

According to a memo in the city council’s meeting packet, “The district starts on the south side of Michigan Avenue, extends down both the east and west sides of S. Ann Arbor to Henry Street, and continues east on Henry to the frontage of Salt Springs Brewery. On Michigan Avenue, it stretches from the public parking entrance next to Benny’s Bakery to the east end of Murphy’s Crossing.”  Even Leather Bucket Alley is included, from S. Ann Arbor Street to the public parking area west of Benny’s Bakery.

Right now, the city is waiting for the green light from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, with news expected next week. However, even with approval, the district cannot open for business until at least two qualified licensees get their permits. So, while the city’s approval will be a big step, each business still has to go through its own process for approval before the district can operate.

Once that happens, the hours for the social district will be

  • Monday – Thursday: 3 pm – 10 pm
  • Friday – Sunday: 9 am – 10 pm

During certain special events, like Saline Main Street’s Summer Concert Series on Thursday evenings and the outdoor Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, the common area will expand to include the entire West Henry Parking Lot.

Unfortunately, there is still one hiccup that has left some folks disappointed. The social district can’t be extended to include North Ann Arbor Street businesses at this time because current state regulations don’t allow people to cross US12 with alcoholic beverages.  However, city staff and the council plan to continue exploring ways to eventually include those businesses.

Comments from City Officials

Community Development Manager Ben Harrington told STN, “The City and Main Street were eager to establish a Social District this summer. Primarily, we were looking to enhance the “Salty Summer Sounds” weekly concert series. The goal was to provide attendees an option to purchase beverages for the concerts from our local restaurants. After conversations with our downtown restaurants about the concept, we revised the social district to be open 7 days a week instead of just Thursday nights.”

Before the council vote, Mayor Brian Marl said, “I regret that we weren’t able to move forward on a social district sometime back because I think the downtown merchants and the overall community would have benefited from this initiative being implemented in either 2022 or 2023.”  

He continued, “I would like clarification from either legal or from the regulatory agencies regarding how they (the qualified business accessed off North Ann Arbor Street) could be included. And I would be very much amenable to moving expeditiously to modify this plan if there was a way to incorporate them.” 

In any case, grab your friends and get ready to raise a glass in Saline’s new social district soon. Whether you’re sipping a craft brew from Salt Springs Brewery or enjoying a custom creation from Mac’s, the social district promises to be a delightful addition to the community’s charm.

An image of the proposed Saline South Ann Arbor Street Social District used during regular hours. Photo courtesy City of Saline.

An image of the proposed expanded Saline South Ann Arbor Street Social District that would be in place on some Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings. Photo courtesy City of Saline.

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