Sip N' Stroll: Not all business owners are onboard with downtown Raleigh's new social district

ByJamiese Price via WTVD logo
Tuesday, August 16, 2022
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Many downtown Raleigh business owners are excited about the changes but others are waiting to see the rollout of the Sip N' Stroll program first.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Monday night in downtown Raleigh was bustling with people enjoying the city's new social district.

It's a designated area downtown where people can drink beer, wine or cocktails as they walk the streets. Alcohol purchased with a participating business within the new social district can be carried outside that bar or restaurant. The goal of the Sip N' Stroll program is to generate foot traffic and bring new business to places such as Fayetteville Street, that have struggled since the pandemic and protests.

Business owners are excited about the changes. So far nearly 70 bars and restaurants have opted-in to the program, but others are waiting to see the rollout first. Will Gibbs who co-owns Zenith Raleigh, a retro-themed nightclub, opted out of the program for now.

"We're just being a little bit cautious, cautiously optimistic," Gibbs said.

Gibbs said that he is concerned about safety and enforcement with the Raleigh Police Department dealing with staffing shortages. He's also brought up issues of litter and liability for the customers who are drinking.

"This is a whole new thing. So there are a lot of questions about what is our liability. What is our responsibility, and you know, where those lines in for ourselves, for the city, for patrons," he said.

Shop Local Raleigh Executive Director Jennifer Martin said the new social district is not a one-size-fits-all solution for the struggles downtown.

"For the Christmas parade, we're not going to allow the social district or Brewgaloo Craft Beer Festival, we are also not going to participate in the social district," Martin said.

Martin said logistically it could be a hassle for big events that are within the social district. Every drink served with a participating business must have the business name, the time it was served, and the date.

"We're serving over 50,000 people, some of them are having multiple beverages. And so the ability to hand right out, you know, hundreds of thousands of stickers during a short amount of time. It's just not feasible. It's also the increased security presence that you have to have on-site," Martin said.

The boundaries for the district begin in the north at Morgan Street in front of the State Capitol Building and run south all the way to Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. It runs west to east from McDowell Street to Blount Street. The social district will operate seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The city has also deployed 40 recycle bins within the district to help cut down on litter.