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 Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol along Kercheval Avenue in Grosse Pointe Park’s business district may soon be able to offer alcoholic beverages in to-go cups so that patrons can take them outside and consume  them in specific  common areas..

Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol along Kercheval Avenue in Grosse Pointe Park’s business district may soon be able to offer alcoholic beverages in to-go cups so that patrons can take them outside and consume them in specific common areas..

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Grosse Pointe Park bars and restaurants will be able to serve alcohol to go in social districts

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 28, 2020


GROSSE POINTE PARK — Patrons of many Grosse Pointe Park bars and restaurants will soon be able to get their alcohol to go.

During a July 13 meeting via Zoom, the Grosse Pointe Park City Council voted unanimously in favor of a social district resolution and an operations and maintenance plan for the district. Made possible by two new state bills signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer July 2, communities are now able to create social districts in areas with more than one business that has a state license to sell alcohol; in these social districts, customers are able to purchase and consume cocktails-to-go within a limited geographic area.

The council vote means the city can apply to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission for its approval, City Manager Nick Sizeland said. The city had applied and was waiting for approval, as of press time.

The new law allows businesses to serve alcohol in specially marked, disposable 16-ounce cups, Sizeland said. Although patrons can walk around the district with the cups, they can’t carry them outside the district; common outdoor areas where patrons can consume their beverages will be labeled with signs. Sizeland said patrons can’t take a cup of alcohol into a nearby business that doesn’t serve alcohol, nor can they carry a cup of alcohol from one bar or restaurant into a different bar or restaurant.

Restaurants and bars aren’t automatically allowed to serve cocktails-to-go. As Sizeland pointed out, they still need to get approval from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. State officials have said they’re trying to fast-track these approvals.

The boundaries of the social districts are along Kercheval Avenue between Alter Road/Wayburn Street and Nottingham Road, and along Charlevoix Avenue between Alter Road/Wayburn Street and Nottingham Road. Hours of operation would be 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

City Councilwoman Aimee Rogers Fluitt asked if the Park’s Tax Increment Finance Authority could use COVID-19 relief funds to help businesses with expenses related to outdoor bar service, such as the disposable cups, outdoor seating and extra trash cans. Sizeland said he would talk to the TIFA Board about this.

Sizeland thanked the businesses on Kercheval and Charlevoix who reached out to the city about the possibility of a social district.

“The social district, they believe, would really transform the community during COVID-19 … and attract future patrons,” Sizeland said.

He said he’s been in discussions with Public Safety Director Stephen Poloni, as the Public Safety Department would be responsible for making sure that patrons are obeying applicable laws.

“We want everyone to be safe and responsible and have a good time,” Sizeland said. “And we certainly don’t want to see cups all over the place.”

The governor’s executive order mandating the wearing of masks in public places such as stores also extends to crowded outdoor areas, so social district visitors may need to wear masks even outside, Sizeland said.

Because of the way the state law is written, the city needed to approve the creation of social districts through December 2024. If the common areas become problematic, Sizeland said, the city can revoke those at any time, but the council would need to hold a public hearing first. City officials would then need to file revocation paperwork with the LCC, he said.

City Councilwoman Lauri Read asked if the only option the city would have if one business in a social district wasn’t complying would be to shut down the whole district. City Attorney Thomas Howlett said that was correct.

However, Howlett also pointed out that businesses that failed to comply with executive orders pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic could face the loss of their individual state liquor licenses.

City Councilman Daniel Grano, who made the motion to approve this effort, asked if there was a reason why the plan didn’t include Mack Avenue.

Sizeland said Mack presented a different set of challenges, including that it’s a county road and can’t be closed temporarily, and that it’s the site of construction right now.

“It’s certainly something that we could consider adding (in the future),” Sizeland said.

Mayor Robert Denner said Park administrators had done a lot of work to put this matter in front of the council.

“I can only hope our residents — and our businesses — behave responsibly going forward,” Denner said.