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You can now enjoy alcoholic drinks on sidewalks in Hickory's social district

The new social district is made possible thanks to a recent law passed by the General Assembly back in September.

HICKORY, N.C. — Residents and visitors in Hickory, North Carolina can now enjoy an alcoholic beverage on the streets in its newest social district in the downtown area.

The city said people can now buy drinks at local bars and restaurants within the district and then enjoy their alcoholic beverages on sidewalks and public areas of the social district.

“Hickory’s revitalized downtown lends itself to this type of social district. We renovated Union Square and the surrounding block to be an inviting space for people of all ages to enjoy. We created additional areas for people to dine outdoors, meet with others, and enjoy downtown entertainment,” Hickory Mayor Hank Guess, said. "This new social district further promotes spending time outdoors, supporting local businesses, and taking advantage of the community atmosphere created in our revitalized downtown.”

David Leonetti, business services and redevelopment manager for the City of Hickory, said the Union Square portion of downtown already had a "common area entertainment permit: in place, which essentially allowed customers of restaurants and bars within Union Square to enjoy their beverages outdoors on the square. The social district expands that area to include more of downtown. 

"It just allows us to do as much as we can to help our local restaurants thrive," Leonetti said. 

The City of Hickory has worked to revitalize and renovate its downtown area to make it a gathering space for the community, and Leonetti said the social district is one more way to try to bring people downtown. 

"We've done so much over the last few years to revitalize and expand our downtown and looking at different ways to draw people downtown - and have more things for people to do," Leonetti added. 

The Hickory Wine Shoppe is one of the businesses that has been able to serve up glasses of wine for people to drink on the square under the "common area entertainment permit" and is looking forward to serving even more customers with the social district now established.

"I think it will definitely drive business," said Kristi Carpenter, general manager of the Hickory Wine Shoppe. "I also think that our customers will love the freedom of being able to go shopping in the other local businesses with their glass of wine."

Carpenter sees this as an opportunity to unify downtown and the community.

"It's just a place that when you look around, there's young, there's old," Carpenter said. "You look out and everybody's smiling and having a good time, and it's just a fun place to be."

Olde Hickory Tap Room will also benefit from the social district, which expands the area where its patrons can enjoy an adult beverage. 

"I think it'll be really nice," said Chad Hefner, one of the managers at Olde Hickory Tap Room. "I think the public will really enjoy it, and you know, it's way to bring even more people downtown I think."

RELATED: Temporary 'social district' in Cornelius approved for St. Patrick's Day

The Hickory Downtown Social District includes:

  • Union Square and portions of First Avenue NW
  • Trade Alley NW, Main Avenue, and Government Avenue SW.

The district is roughly bounded by Fourth Street on the west, First Avenue SW and Government Avenue SW to the south, Second Street NE/SE and Main Avenue Way SW to the east, and First Avenue NW to the north. 

Signage is in place to mark the boundaries of the district.

Several rules are in places to ensure the safety of downtown Hickory: 

  • Alcoholic beverages may be consumed in the Hickory Downtown Social District from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • No outside alcohol is permitted within the district. All alcoholic beverages must be purchased from establishments located within or contiguous to the district (in specially labeled cups) and must be consumed within the district.
  • ABC permitted establishments must ensure they meet all legal requirements for carding and limiting consumption of alcoholic beverages.
  • The establishment can only serve two beers/wine drinks or one liquor drink to one patron at a time.
  • Upon leaving an establishment where an alcoholic beverage is purchased, the beverage must be consumed or discarded before entering a different business that serves alcohol.
  • No alcoholic beverages may be brought into or consumed within Lowes Foods City Park.
  • All alcohol in open containers must be disposed of before exiting the district or entering a vehicle.
  • Hickory Police Officers will enforce the restrictions of the Hickory Downtown Social District.

The new district is made possible thanks to a recent law passed by the General Assembly back in September.

The new law allows cities to create "social districts," where people can drink outside of restaurants and bars in certain areas. Similar ordinances are in place in cities like Las Vegas and New Orleans. 

RELATED: New 'social district' approved in downtown Kannapolis

 The Cornelius Town Board unanimously passed a temporary ordinance this week allowing for a "social district" along a stretch of Catawba Avenue on St. Patrick's Day. It means those of legal drinking age could drink alcohol outside businesses and restaurants.

RELATED: Temporary 'social district' in Cornelius approved for St. Patrick's Day

If things go well, leaders say it could lead to more permanent changes or could return for other major events. 

Social districts aren't in effect in Charlotte yet. It's unclear if or when city leaders will consider these districts. 

RELATED: New NC law eases restrictions on alcohol

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