The City of Burlington debuted its new downtown social district, which encompasses seven blocks of the city’s downtown.
The new social district, which launched Friday, Sept. 22, allows visitors aged 21 and up to take alcoholic beverages purchased from alcohol beverage control (ABC)-permitted restaurants and bars into designated public areas and will be open from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Participating businesses have placed stickers on their windows indicating that they are members of the social district, and drinks purchased from these establishments must be in specially-branded cups to be carried around the district. The seven participating restaurants and bars include Burlington Beer Works, Burlington Public House, D&J’s Martinis, Go Burrito, Tanner’s Wine Bar, The Mini Dingo and Valerio’s Italian Restaurant.
There are also several local businesses which allow visitors to bring their beverages inside while they browse, including Crush Superfoods, Downtown Yoga & Barre, Main Street Vinyl, Owl & Rabbit Gallery, and Persnickety Books.
According to city of Burlington’s public information specialist John Vernon, cities across North Carolina began implementing social districts at the height of the pandemic in order to help small businesses affected by COVID-19 social restrictions.
“The city hopes it will bring more people downtown more often and be an economic driver for the area,” Vernon said. “It has already piqued the interest of several new businesses interested in spaces within the district.”
The owner of Tanner’s Wine Bar and general manager of Burlington Beerworks, Tracy Schmidt, said she was recently elected to be president of Burlington Downtown Corporation, a nonprofit that promotes economic development in Burlington’s downtown. Schmidt said she was instrumental in the creation of Burlington’s new social district.
“I think it's just something fun for everyone to kind of talk about, and, you know, kind of come check it out to see what's going on,” Schmidt said. “I really do hope that it gives downtown Burlington more exposure outside of our small downtown community so that people see all of the development that is happening down here.”
Heather Warf, general manager at Go Burrito, said she is excited to see how the new social district will impact participating businesses, which Warf said hope the new social district will elevate while also helping downtown Burlington thrive.
“I am hoping we will have an increase in foot traffic, get our name out there and maybe get more people to our events and stuff like that,” Warf said. “We have trivia on Wednesdays, I'm starting to get live bands coming in every Friday. In the future we’re actually going to start karaoke on Saturdays.”
Warf thinks the social district will have a larger effect on the community as a whole.
“I think it'll actually bring downtown together,” Warf said.