State lawmaker creates outdoor drinking bill to create social districts outside bars

Like most businesses in this pandemic, bars and restaurants are having to reinvent themselves to stay alive. 

"If we were able to serve cocktails anywhere it would be helpful," said Sandy Levine, Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktail.

It is not lost on Representative Michael Webber from Rochester Hills. The Republican lawmaker sponsored a bill designed to help out bars and take advantage of warmer weather. 

It is called "Social Districts" 

"Try to attract folks particularly to their downtown. It's not going to be for everyone," he said.

If his bill is passed it would allow cities to create areas that permit outdoor drinking - not confining customers to a building - rather a section of town. 

"Take a drink from one establishment and go to another within the same district," said Webber.

Right now carrying a drink in public is considered illegal. These districts would change that at least in the defined sections of a city. 

"As long as it's within the district, they can take that and be mobile," he said.

The owner of Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktails in Midtown Detroit says he has just the place to take advantage of this - located next to the DIA.

 "We could make and sell cocktails there for people to drink across the street on that huge lawn, where there is tons and tons of space that would be really helpful," Levine said.

The idea of a drinking district has been adopted in other states like Ohio for instance, and was actually be thought of before the pandemic hit. 

"I'm hoping it's something that catches on in Michigan and they are still using it 25, 30 years from now when we are not dealing with a pandemic," Webber said. "But in the short term it will be a new thing to attract people out of the house."

There is question of practicality. Summer in Michigan is upon us and we all know it never lasts. This bill has bi-partisan support and is in a committee, but will it get passed in time to do any good for the failing businesses? 

Businesses have little choice but to wait and hope.