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Downtown Social Districts Get a Refill

Social districts are specialized zones in the downtown area, Old Town, REO Town and beyond.

One of the adjustments the city of Lansing made during the COVID-19 pandemic was the establishment of social districts, special zones in the downtown area, Old Town and REO Town.

Patrons of bars — most of which were limited to indoor options — were allowed to carry their covered alcoholic drinks out of the establishment and enjoy them outdoors as long as they stayed within the designated boundaries of the districts. To the same end, East Lansing blocked Albert Avenue, allowing al fresco socialization.

Now it appears as if the social zone concept is here to stay.

Lansing’s resolution establishing the districts has been extended indefinitely, providing more options for downtown patrons and boosting business for bars and restaurants with social district permits.

Heath Santoriol, a supervisor at Midtown Brewing Co. in Lansing, said social zones had a positive impact on business during the pandemic. As the restrictions have eased, the zones have proved beneficial for the brewery, especially during events.

“In general, they were able to help out during the pandemic itself,” he said. “During events like Block-Aid in June, we tend to get a lot of people outdoors (in the social zones). It helps with social distancing and people are able to be more responsible.”

Albert EL Fresco is also making a repeat performance this summer in East Lansing, said city Community and Economic Development Administrator Adam Cummins.

“While out and about, we also encourage community members to support the many local businesses in downtown East Lansing and participate in our new Take-Out-Tuesdays program,” he added.

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