By Jessica Mathews /

The City of Howell will debut its new social district this Saturday during the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest.

It allows for outdoor alcohol consumption within a commons area located within designated social boundaries of the downtown that are mapped out and marked. The initiative aims to help boost sales for approved participating restaurants that were impacted by COVID-19, increase downtown foot traffic and drive sales to downtown merchants.

DDA Director Kate Litwin stated that “the Social District will enhance walkability throughout downtown and gives visitors the opportunity to explore more of what our downtown has to offer like unique shops, beautiful public spaces, fun events, and more!”

Police Chief Scott Mannor told WHMI he thinks it’s a great idea and he feels it’s going to be a positive thing for the City and really doesn’t see a downside. He noted the City has a lot of great events and thinks this will just enhance those, adding he’s talked with other jurisdictions and police departments that have social districts and they’ve all reported positive feedback from businesses and residents. From a police standpoint, Mannor said all state and local laws still apply and people can’t bring in their own alcohol and must purchase it from a participating business.

As for enforcement, Mannor said he doesn’t want to be heavy-handed as this is a great thing for the City and doesn’t want to tarnish it. If people are starting to violate requirements such as stepping outside of the boundaries, he says they’ll be there to help remind them of the rules. He says they want people to enjoy the new district and not view it as they could get in trouble because that’s not the spirit and doesn’t want to put a damper on it. Mannor said he’s been supportive of the district since it was brought up by Litwin and really doesn’t see a whole lot of downside, adding people can now enjoy Concerts at the Courthouse with their beverages on Friday night.

The Social District will be open from 11am to 10pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays to start. Patrons of participating restaurants and bars within the Social District may purchase, carry, and consume an open alcoholic beverage in an approved plastic container, up to 16 oz. in size, bearing the Howell Social logo as well as the logo of the business where the beverage was purchased. Only beer, wine, and mixed cocktails are permitted - no shots.

There are currently seven eligible establishments that can participate but to date, the only approved businesses are Howell’s Main Street Winery, Moe’s Bar Bar Shop, Aberrant Ales, and Coratti’s Pizzeria. Signage will indicate the Social District Area boundary lines.

Alcohol purchased from one Social District participating establishment cannot be taken into any other establishment which serves food and/or alcohol. Officials say some retail merchants may allow visitors to bring their Social District cups into their store but others may not.

More information about how the district works, rules, a map, and frequently asked questions can be found in the attachments.