Jackson’s downtown social district is on hold


JACKSON, Michigan – The Jackson Downtown Development Authority wanted to launch a social district last April, allowing people to have a drink in a bar or restaurant, take it out and walk around.

The goal was to bring more people to the area and keep them there longer, according to executive director Cory Mays.

“This is generating revenue for all of our businesses at a time when restaurants were really struggling with peak capacities,” he said. “They were struggling to make a living and the social quarter really started off as a way of saying, ‘Hey, we want to encourage people to stay here longer and give you another option of service. “”

But only a handful of downtown Jackson’s 15 bars and restaurants have registered, forcing the DDA to halt the launch.

“We didn’t want to put it halfway. We don’t want to open a big social district with not as much participation as we want. We want to be tough. We want to look really good, ”Mays said.

Grand River Brewery, Veritas, Nite Lite, Crazy Cowboy, and Ogma Brewing Company have registered to participate in the district.

Ogma Brewing Company co-owner Andrew Volk said he was excited to see it take off as he believes it will expand his customer base.

Joe Gebhardt, WSYM, 2021

“We have a smaller space,” he said. “Fifty people can fit in there. It would be good for us if someone came in and noticed that it was full but could still have a drink, take it to go and enjoy it in one of the common areas of the social district.

Mays wants to get in touch with surrounding businesses to make the case that the social district will work.

“Frankly, maybe the DDA hasn’t done such a good job educating our downtown restaurants and bars on the quality of the program and that’s our responsibility,” he said.

Crazy Cowboy owner Liz Wiginton said she pledged to do so because the pandemic was hurting the service industry.

“It allowed them to go from place to place while stopping, checking in and having a drink,” she said. “A bit like Las Vegas. You walk into The Crazy Cowboy and you’re like, “Hey, they’re really busy, but I can have a drink. Let’s go next door and check this place out while we wait for a table or go see the other place to see if they are busy.

Now she has a lot of questions about how the social district will be run.

“Say, you leave here with your glass of liquor and venture out to Grand River Brewery,” she said. “You have a drink there, then you go and you have an accident. Who is responsible ? Is Grand River responsible for the last cut? Who can say they even got the cup from here and just got it from there? Or did they walk out into the parking lot and fill their mug themselves with a bottle of vodka and just use our mug? “

Wiginton also has concerns about how it will be enforced.

“Who’s really going to watch everything around Jackson with a whole bunch of open intoxicants?” “she said.” Lots of miners are going around. Yes, you can check inside the place and cover them again, but that is to say a lot of miners are not going to walk the streets or shed it. from their vehicle and then try to enter another location.

Mays said the signage and rules would be posted and that there would be a regular police presence.

The DDA collects statistics on visitors coming to the area and the pedestrian traffic they will get.

“The numbers are better than they’ve ever been,” Mays said. “Look at all the infrastructure growth downtown. Watch all the events happening now downtown. This past summer, we were finally able to host auto shows and food truck events, art rides, light walls, and other things that are making a comeback.

Volk believes it will be a win-win for the city and its businesses.

“I think some companies’ initial reluctance might just be the cost combined with not really understanding how it could help their business,” Volk said. “We understand the benefits and want to see it, so there is really nothing coming back to us that is known at least now.”

It’s a matter of when the social quarter will start, not if.

“I imagine more people are walking around with a drink, meeting friends, hanging out and going to our bars, restaurants and retail stores, but further on I would like to see more seating outside,” said Mays.

Restaurants wishing to sell alcohol in the social district must obtain approval from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. It’s $ 70 for inspection fees and $ 250 for permit fees.

The hours of operation of the social district would be from noon to midnight on Thursdays and Fridays and from 9 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays and Sundays.

The area will be located between Louis Glick Highway, Washington Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Blackstone Street.

Social district plan

Downtown Development Authority

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