By Mark H. Stowers
Ferndale Patio Zone
How many times have you had a nearly full adult beverage at your favorite restaurant or gathering place and it’s time to go? You either chug it down, to your own dismay, or leave the portion somewhat untouched but yet fully paid for. Your worries over that adult beverage conundrum will soon be over. Last summer, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation that allowed the creation of MLCC Social Districts – an area to actually walk around and finish that cocktail, beer or glass of wine in your favorite municipality.
The new law is “intended to spur economic activity and provide flexibility for hospitality businesses by enabling the on-site sale and off-site consumption of alcoholic beverages in designated ‘Social District’ areas. It allows local governments to designate a Social District within their jurisdictions. Businesses that are granted a Social District Permit may sell alcoholic liquor (beer, wine, mixed spirits or mixed drinks) on their licensed premises to customers who may then consume the alcoholic liquor within the commons area of the Social District.”
The Ferndale DDA is working with city government to get the alcohol flowing but in a safe manner by establishing the Ferndale Patio Zone. Lena Stevens, Executive Director of the Ferndale DDA explained the concept that has a hopeful start date of mid May.
“The Ferndale Patio Zone – Pay and Take It Outside – it can be any beverage – beer, wine or cocktail that a business wants to serve,” Stevens said. “And you can take it outside and walk around downtown Ferndale. Any city in Michigan can have one if they want to.”
Stevens noted it was a “COVID response by the state legislature to allow restaurants some relief and have people enjoy spaces and businesses while being outside and having social distance. It’s authorized through 2024. It’s permitted by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.”
Businesses can apply for the permit to be part and put up a $50 administration fee and a $270 application fee. How it works is, participating businesses will purchase special cups from the DDA with the first round of compostable plastic cups sponsored by Jim Shaffer and Associates Realtors.
“There is concern about health and safety. We’re going to launch this program and take a close look at it,” Stevens said. “Are people behaving in a way that’s safer in regard to their health and others’ health? Then, we’ll look at problematics. Are we having more litter? Are we having a lot of safety calls? Hopefully, that won’t happen but we’re going to use the first three months to look at it, access it and make decisions about the future of the program. Will we expand it to more days? Will it make it less days? All those kinds of things are on the table.”
Stevens presented the plan to Ferndale City Council where the DDA will manage the program.
“They approved it and then we go to the Liquor Control Commission and they approve the overall social district. Then each individual business has to go and get permitted to operate within that social district that we designated,” Stevens said.
The cups are for one use only and are branded by establishment.
“We are still going through some of the planning processes and businesses are still filling out their local user agreement,” she said. “Then we’re start marketing and we are shooting for launch in mid May. Finish your taxes and come on to Ferndale and have a drink.”
There are two common variances or Patio Zones – one on each side of Woodward going east and west.
“That means you cannot cross Woodward with a beverage,” she said. “It’s one and done. They have to throw that cup away and can go get another one. The cups go in the trash and not recycling because they are compostable.”
The Patio Zones were created, according to Stevens, to help businesses through COVID.
“The businesses have done so well to keep their heads above water this past year. It’s been an insanely, emotionally, financially, physically difficult year. It’s on us as patrons and government employees to do everything we can to support them through economic recovery. Even if this is small way, we can help some of these restaurants and bars to come back from the pandemic, then we’re excited to try it.”
Get your favorite adult beverage, Pay and Take It Outside – thanks to the Ferndale Patio Zone.
For a list of Michigan Social Districts, click here.
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