Downtown Farmington has opened a social district called “The Syndicate” that allows people to carry out food and drinks within a confined space. The district has helped participating businesses stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Downtown Farmington has opened a social district called “The Syndicate” that allows people to carry out food and drinks within a confined space. The district has helped participating businesses stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Farmington-area restaurants fighting through COVID-19

Downtown social district boosts businesses

By: Zachary Manning | Farmington Press | Published February 8, 2021

 The Farmington DDA has placed what it calls “Farmington Forts” inside the social district to allow people to eat together in a safe manner. Patrons are also able to walk the street, but they must remain in the district to drink.

The Farmington DDA has placed what it calls “Farmington Forts” inside the social district to allow people to eat together in a safe manner. Patrons are also able to walk the street, but they must remain in the district to drink.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Farmington Brewing Co. is one of the businesses that participates with carryout cocktails in the social district. The Syndicate is located along Grand River Avenue.

Farmington Brewing Co. is one of the businesses that participates with carryout cocktails in the social district. The Syndicate is located along Grand River Avenue.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Advertisement

FARMINGTON — As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, local restaurants have continued to push through adversity in hopes of gaining some normalcy.

It’s been hard on all kinds of local places. Whether it be fast-food restaurants, bars or diners, everyone has had to adjust to different protocols and a new normal during the last year.

Despite these struggles, many Farmington-area businesses have stayed the course and plan to regroup once the pandemic has died down.

“We do have folks who have made it through in a strong enough manner that they’ll be here on the other side of this,” Farmington Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kate Knight said. “We’ll do anything we can to help them recoup those sales and drive more traffic their way.”

While orders of shutdowns and limited capacity have come and gone over the last year, restaurants have found unique ways to remain open.

Carryout food has played a big role, but downtown Farmington’s new social district, called ‘The Syndicate,’ has been a big boost as well.

The social district allows people to carry out cocktails and food within the district. Participating restaurants need to obtain permits with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and the Farmington DDA.

According to the Farmington DDA website, participating restaurants include:  Farmington Brewing Co., Sidecar Slider Bar, Basement Burger Bar, 1 Up Arcade Bar, La Masa, Mi.Mosa and Los Tres Amigos.

The social district runs down Grand River Avenue and stretches to parts of Farmington Road, and it’s open every day noon-10 p.m. The district has been open since New Year’s Eve.

“We are finding that people are coming out in cold weather to order beer and walk down the sidewalk. It’s bizarre, and it’s awesome,” Knight said. “If you roll through here on a Friday night, you will see people gathering at high-top tables out in front of our bars and restaurants that have been closed with COVID-19, and they’re eating carryout and they’re having a cocktail with their neighbor. It’s been an absolute benefit.”

Outside of the unique business of the new social district, state and local government support through grants have been pivotal to keeping these area restaurants afloat.

Farmington Brewing Co. owner Jason Schlaff is thankful for the support he’s gotten from local, state and federal government. He’s been a recipient of a few of those grants, which has helped his business.

Schlaff believes the communication of protocols from government to businesses has been better than expected. He is optimistic that bars and restaurants can get back to close to 100% capacity sometime this year.

“Oakland County, the Farmington DDA, the state and federal government have been extremely generous with their financial support through this,” Schlaff said. “I cannot tell you where we would be without the (Paycheck Protection Program), local grants, a little bit of crowdfunding trying to build a permanent patio out front. Truly, I don’t know what to say. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for these programs.”

With restaurants closed to indoor dining for so long and now being at limited capacity, community support has been necessary.

Schlaff said his business has taken all precautions necessary to keep his staff and customers safe, which has led to positive reception from members of the community. He noted that people have said they like coming to his restaurant because of how seriously they are treating the situation.

For Knight, watching the community support downtown businesses has been great to see.

“It’s great. We’ve had tremendous community support,” Knight said. “We tell our restaurant owners, ‘If you put some heaters outside, people will show up in their snow pants to eat on your patio,’ and that has been the case.”

Advertisement