ST. JOSEPH, Michigan (WNDU) – A new Michigan law allows cities to designate specific areas called social neighborhoods where patrons can enjoy their alcoholic beverage outdoors.
Several towns in Berrien County have already started to take advantage of this new policy.
Local stores like the White Pine Winery in St. Joseph were economically hit when COVID hit last year.
They are therefore extremely optimistic that the new Social District Act that has been put in place will help them better serve their customers and help downtown St. Joe recover from the devastators of last year.
âIt will not only benefit the customer,â said Lee Scherwitz, sommelier at White Pine Winery. âBut it will also generate more economic funds for the community. This will attract more people, as now they can take a leisurely stroll around town and have something to drink while they are doing it.
Scherwitz also believes this new law could attract more tourists to the St. Joe area.
âIt could be an attraction for people who have never been here,â he said. âAnd we want to showcase not only our product, White Pine Winery, but all the products the city has to offer. We have a lot of great restaurants, we have three wineries here in town. We all work together for the good of our customers.
However, some owners of local establishments do not believe that the new law on social districts will yield significant benefits.
âI don’t think this will necessarily lead to the issues that some people are afraid of,â said David Montgomery, owner of 221 Main – Restaurant & Cocktail House. âAt the same time, I’m not sure it’s a huge lifeline. I think it’s going to be a nice convenience.
St. Joe’s Law Enforcement and Public Safety have already started to prepare for the new provisions of the Social District Act.
âYou’ve had more people drinking, making sure they stay in the social district and don’t come out,â said St. Joseph’s director of public safety Steve Neubecker. âIt’s going to be a lot of education, we’re not trying to quote people, we’re trying to educate them. Tell them where the social district is, where to drink legally and properly.
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