Clawson authorizes formation of social district

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published August 26, 2021

 A graphic shows the boundaries of Clawson’s social district. The district includes sidewalks and common areas and excludes streets and parking lots.

A graphic shows the boundaries of Clawson’s social district. The district includes sidewalks and common areas and excludes streets and parking lots.

Map by Jason Clancy

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CLAWSON — On July 20, the Clawson City Council approved the creation of a downtown social district where patrons can purchase alcohol in specially marked cups from licensed establishments and drink it in a common outdoor area.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Public Act 124 into law July 1, 2020, which allowed local governments to establish social districts in their jurisdictions to bolster small businesses negatively affected by the pandemic.

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission must approve applications from businesses that wish to join the social district, and at least two operators must be approved in order to form the social district.

Clawson’s social district will include sidewalks and common areas and exclude streets and parking lots. The district boundaries include a footprint that stretches out from the intersection at 14 Mile and Main streets.

According to a memo from Downtown Development Authority Manager Joan Horton, the potential license holders for consideration include Three Cats, Mojave Cantina, 54 West, Pumachug, Old Detroit Burger Bar, White Wolf Japanese Patisserie, Renshaw Lounge, Zeoli’s Modern Italian, Weiss Distilling Co., Tavern on the Main, Due Venti, The Lucky Duck, Whiskey Taco Foxtrot and Woodpile BBQ Shack.

The resolution passed unanimously, with Councilman Lou Samson recusing himself from the vote because he has business ties to Whiskey Taco Foxtrot.

The specially marked cups must include the social district logo and the logo of the establishment. The city approved a plan that would allow the social district to operate year-round.

Horton said she recommended the social district operate year-round because some venues might want to put out burn barrels during the winter holidays and offer hot chocolate drinks or other seasonal beverages.

Horton introduced the resolution at the July 6 City Council meeting, but city officials opted to postpone the item until the next meeting July 20 in order to get more information and also to include Woodpile BBQ Shack in the district.

“Our businesses close typically between 10 and 11 p.m., so nobody will be out there at midnight,” Horton said July 6. “This allows somebody to buy a beverage, stroll around downtown, window shop or sit outside. We’ll provide other seating to sit outside and wait for a table to open.”

She added that the cups cannot be brought inside any businesses, and those purchased at one location must stay within the defined space as licensed by the MLCC.

“This is not intended to encourage bar crawls,” she said. “We’re going to have to provide a lot of trash receptacles and signage (designating the social district’s boundaries).”

During the July 6 meeting, Clawson Police Chief Scott Sarvello said Clawson was set up differently than other cities, such as Northville, which has a “huge social district and shuts down streets.”

“We’re not set up for that. I see it more as an outdoor waiting area for restaurants downtown, nothing more,” Sarvello said. “We’re not going to see large groups grabbing beer and walking downtown. Maybe couples grabbing a drink and waiting for their tables.”

He added that he spoke with police in Royal Oak and Ferndale, which both have social districts, and was assured that neither had experienced any major issues.

For more information, call the Clawson DDA at (248) 435-5299.

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