'We're next': Durham councilman considers 'social district' in downtown

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ByCindy Bae via WTVD logo
Friday, July 8, 2022
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With social districts already in cities such as Raleigh and Greensboro, Durham councilman Leonardo Williams hopes the Bull City is next.

If the City of Durham were to establish a social district where people can walk with an alcoholic drink in their hand, one visitor on Friday was for the idea.

"I think it would be cool," Justin Maness said.

Maness' response joins more than 90 others in March when Downtown Durham released a survey asking if social districts are a good idea. Nearly 80% said yes. But one drawback, according to Maness, would be irresponsible drinking.

"There's an opportunity to go overboard with that," Maness said. "People don't carry themselves right, but at the same time, as long as it's administered properly, I think it could be a good thing and bring more business."

With social districts already in cities such as Raleigh and Greensboro, Durham councilman Leonardo Williams hopes the bull city is next.

"We are in the process of hearing a proposal from staff on how Durham will incorporate the social districts," Williams said. "So as a councilman, I'm awaiting that proposal eagerly."

For businesses, some were onboard with the idea.

"Do it," Rubies on Five Points' Robert Montemayor said. "I think it could work out. If it could be somewhere like New Orleans, I mean, why not? It'll get more people downtown."

A few blocks down, Alley Twenty Six's Shannon Healy remained "cautiously optimistic."

"I just want to know what the parameters are, where the boundaries of the social district are," Healy said.

He plans to attend a public meeting next week where he can find out more information.

"I have concerns with liability on two fronts," Healy said. "Does my insurance cover this? Does the insurance I currently have apply if I'm serving people and they're leaving the premise?"

Specific areas such as Motorco and American Tobacco have shown interest in the social district but Williams hopes to have it in downtown's inner core.

"It will be within an actual district and we will have certain mechanisms that will help us identify when that drink was sold by what restaurant so if someone is irresponsible, it'll be on them and not the actual establishment," Williams said, adding he expects to hear a proposal in the coming month about social districts in the Bull City.