Oct 11, 2023 - Business

Montford, Elizabeth and NoDa join list of hopeful social district neighborhoods


Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

A growing number of Charlotte businesses and neighborhoods are showing interest in establishing social districts, where people can sip on alcoholic drinks in the streets.

Why it matters: Social districts are intended to increase or revive foot traffic in dense, walkable areas. They were legalized in North Carolina in 2021 as a way to help local businesses during the pandemic.

  • But Charlotte city leaders have voiced concerns recently about quality of life issues, especially litter and public intoxication. Some worry allowing drinking in the street could exacerbate both.

The list of applicants that submitted interest forms with the city of Charlotte now includes:

Montford: Angry Ales and Brazwell’s Pub

  • Business owners are envisioning a district from the top of Montford Drive to Moosehead Grill at the end, Angry Ales owner Andy Henson tells Axios. They’re still considering the practicality and liability concerns.
  • “Montford is a natural place to have a social district,” he says. “It’s a compact area without any residential neighbors and an abundance of bar and restaurant options.”
  • Carmella’s Pizza Grill also submitted a pre-application.

 NoDa: The Goodyear House

  • The Goodyear House is leading the charge to establish a district in NoDa. One potentially could stretch from Heist Brewery to The Artisan Palate to Wooden Robot.
  • “NoDa is such a great walking neighborhood that it just kind of makes sense,” says Chris Coleman, chef and owner of The Goodyear House.
  • He says businesses are largely in favor. They now need to make sure neighbors are on board, too.

Elizabeth: Rosemont Market & Wine Bar

  • The owner of Rosemont is 1957 Hospitality Group, which also runs Puerta, The Crunkleton and Cheat’s Cheesesteak Parlor. The group’s growing presence in Elizabeth is evolving the neighborhood into a hot dining scene with heavy foot traffic around happy hour and dinner time.

South End and Uptown: Charlotte Center City Partners

  • The organization that leads planning efforts and other initiatives in Uptown, South End and Midtown is in the midst of planning one or multiple social districts. They’re still collecting input from the community.
  • RSVP and The Fairwood 226, both bars in South End, have also submitted a pre-application.

Lower South End: Gilde Brewery

  • Gilde was one of the first to apply when the city’s social district pre-application opened. It delayed its full submission since construction of businesses was underway in the area, WSOC reported.

Plaza Midwood: Merchants Association

  • Plaza Midwood is on pace to become Charlotte’s first social district along Central Avenue, from Two Scoops Creamery to Morningside Pub. The merchants association is the only applicant that has submitted a full application. It collected signatures from at least 51% of property owners in the proposed boundaries, as required by the city.
  • The organization is hoping city council will vote on approving the district as early as October, representative Russell Ferguson tells Axios.

Crescent Communities

  • Crescent Communities declined to comment on where it is proposing a social district. The developer is behind projects such as the River District in west Charlotte and multiple apartment buildings across the city.

The Bowl at Ballantyne

  • This is a mixed-use dining and retail district opening in 2024. Olde Mecklenburg Brewery is opening a second location here.

[Go deeper: Charlotte hardly enforces open container laws ahead of potential social district vote]

How it works: Per the social district legislation, there must be clearly marked signs with the boundaries and hours. All to-go drinks must be served in containers with consistent markings.

  • The City of Charlotte has taken an extra step to create a social district application. It’s a slower approach and more tedious process than other cities.
  • In Raleigh, a downtown social district was established along Fayetteville Street and then expanded several more blocks a year later.

Zoom out: Wesley Heights businesses are trying another method to allow for off-premise drinking. Town Brewing, Rhino Market, Freemore Tavern and Que Fresa are seeking a common area entertainment permit from the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

  • All the properties are owned by the same landlord, says Town Brewing owner Brandon Stirewalt, making them eligible for the permit. Common area permits predate social districts; they were implemented as part of revisions to North Carolina alcohol laws in 2019.
  • Stirewalt says the permit will be ideal for festivals, monthly markets and other events. Customers could order a drink and then browse Infinity’s End or migrate to another bar’s parking lot.
  • The area might have more trouble getting approval for a social district, Stirewalt says, because it doesn’t have much green/open space. There’s also a lot of traffic nearby.

“We’re definitely looking to bring in some really fun events that just allows people to flex in and out,” he says.

  • He’s targeting a launch date by the end of October. They need to first get the permit secured, then order to-go cups with branding, hang up the legal signage and train the staff. Most of the regulations are similar to a social district.

[Go deeper: Charlotte trails other cities in allowing drinking in the streets in ‘social districts’]

This story was originally published Sept. 27 and updated Oct. 11 to include the newest pre-applicants.


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