Royal Oak extends social district through June 30

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published September 25, 2021

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ROYAL OAK — On Sept. 13, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously extended its social district through June 30, 2022. On April 12, it had authorized the creation of a downtown social district through Sept. 30.

Within the district, patrons can purchase alcohol in specially marked cups from licensed establishments and drink the alcohol 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.

Royal Oak’s social district footprint reaches along Main Street, from Pingree Boulevard to Lincoln Avenue, and from Knowles Street to Lafayette Avenue, primarily along the public rights of way so beverages do not get carried into parking decks or other public locations.

The hours of operation run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

The Downtown Development Authority recommended the creation of the social district and allocated $200,000 as well as its normal maintenance activities to support the endeavor.

The social district currently has 16 establishments that received City Commission approval, with 15 obtaining approval from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. So far, 11 establishments have requested and received cups from the city, according to a memo from Director of Community Development Timothy E. Thwing.

He said staff plans to contact the others about the approval of the extension.

“No issues have been identified by the administration or police department,” Thwing wrote in his memo. “The police department has suggested an extension through June 30, 2022, with annual extension after that time.”

The city offers two types of recyclable cups emblazoned with the city’s social district logo: a 10-ounce cup for wine and mixed drinks and a 16-ounce cup for beer. Licensed establishments must also put their logo on cups and indicate the date of sale each time one is sold.

Sidewalk decals and signs have been placed or installed at several locations identifying the social district and the rules. Signs have also been provided to the establishments for display at their businesses.

Thwing said additional trash receptacles have been received for placement at the district boundaries.

“I don’t think we should consider the winter just a downtime,” Commissioner Sharlan Douglas said. “(We should) think about opportunities to really use this social district throughout the season and not to wait until spring.”

Mayor Michael Fournier suggested a winter tagline for the social district — “Your beer always stays cold” — and Douglas mentioned the opportunity to offer hot seasonal beverages, such as adult hot cocoa.

Department of Public Service and Recreation Director Aaron Filipski added that there are four recycling receptacles along Main Street within the social district, and he was recently alerted to a pilot program through the Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority and other member cities with social districts.

The program would allow for Royal Oak and other cities, such as Ferndale, to place more recycling bins in the social district for a “considerably more affordable price.”  However, Filipski said the earliest the city would likely see action on the streets would be late winter.

“That’s our only concern with it, but there’s exciting news on that front,” he said.

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