By Mike Kruzman /

Brighton City Council is ready to take another look at social districts that could prove to be a lifeline for bars and restaurants during the pandemic.

Last summer, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, in an executive order, allowed for the creation of social districts that would allow for open carrying and consumption of alcohol in communities that wish to do so in designated common areas. This would help bars and restaurants that are being hindered by pandemic rules on capacity, when they are allowed to even be open.

A subcommittee, last year, worked on details of what such a district would look like in Brighton, and the regulations that would be applied, with help from the Brighton Police Department. Police Chief Rob Bradford said, at a City Council meeting in August, that he was supportive of the district, as long as it kept posted hours of noon to 10pm. After 10pm, he says Brighton’s demographic changes downtown. The proposed boundary, last August, included downtown Main Street, and then stretch down Grand River, as far as on the west side as to include Stillwater Grill, The Wooden Spoon, and Single Barrel Social. Participating restaurants could sell one 12oz drink to an individual in a specially designated and marked cup. Patrons would be allowed to take and consume that beverage in common areas that include the area around the Mill Pond, the tridge, and the sidewalk behind the Grand River restaurants. Open alcohol would not be permitted on the Grand River sidewalk though, which led many on Council to believe could be confusing.

With only limited support in August, City Council tabled the matter, but allowed staff to continue to investigating options. At last week’s online work session, City Management Assistant Henry Outlaw gave an update. Outlaw talked to several cities that instituted the districts, and said that while he’s received a lot of positive feedback, many feel it’s still too early to tell. By the time most of the cities that decided to create social districts could, the weather had turned. Outlaw said many are waiting for the summer to see how people will use them.

Councilman Jon Emaus was in favor of the plan last summer, and remains so now. He said the intent then was to find a way to help restaurants and bars maintain revenue numbers in a time when they were scheduled to reopen. He continued saying, that at that time, many thought COVID would be over by the fall, and instead the opposite has happened which created a more dire economic environment for Brighton’s restaurants.

Mayor Pro Tem Susan Gardner shared her experience in having a difficult time reserving an igloo for outdoor dining and said there appears to be a demand for something like this. Councilman Jim Muzzin said he as in total support of this, but would like a caveat for which they can stop it if it’s not working. Jim Bohn was the lone voice on City Council not in support, saying he didn’t see a need to introduce open alcohol to the downtown area.

City Attorney Paul Burns said that if they should approve a district, it should be by ordinance, or else there’d be no way to enforce it. City Manager Nate Geinzer, with the majority of the board in favor, said he will begin on that process and could have it ready before the weather turns warm.