Getting Social with the Social District
It’s a question that city leaders, business owners, and developers have been asking for years. “What brings the community downtown?” If you ask one hundred different people, you might get one hundred different answers, but there is one consistent facet that everyone cites as crucial to making a downtown where citizens want to be: walkability.
If you read our interview with Tim Elliot, founder of Elliot Sidewalk Communities and master developer of Stock + Grain Assembly, you might remember his answer about bringing the “art of the stroll” back to downtown High Point. And in the last month, the City of High Point has taken a huge step towards walkability in the downtown area through opening the Social District!
The Social District is taking walkability and community to the streets this year for High Point. A designated stretch through downtown, the Social District allows folks to take adult beverages out of bars and restaurants and down the sidewalk. You can even take the drink into some other spots along the walk!
While the idea may seem surprising (Whaaat? We can take alcohol out of the bar!?), other cities in North Carolina have already piloted the Social District legislation with great success. High Point jumped on the opportunity to add some walkability to our citizens’ lives, and have worked together to ensure our Social District is possible, effective, and safe for all.
“The main purpose for creating a social district is to create community,” says Councilman Wesley Hudson, Ward 4. “It's good for the bars and breweries, but it also enhances walkability to the retailers in High Point.”
“The hope is for all of downtown to have that walkability,” says Ryan Ferguson, Marketing Manager for the City of High Point. “We want to attract retail shops, bars, and restaurants so people want to come and gather.”
You might have some questions about The Social District – namely, “Where can I get started??” We got the scoop for you so you can have all your Social District questions answered and get started on sipping, shopping, and strolling as soon as possible!
So I can just take my drink anywhere in downtown High Point?
Not yet. The stretch of street that currently encompasses the Social District runs along Elm Street, down English, and up towards the ballpark (looping around Congdon Yards). It circles up Church Avenue, and just expanded to include North Main Street where Paddled South Brewing Co. is located. If you’re wondering where to walk with your cup, just keep an eye out for the blue Social District stickers on the sidewalk. (And stay tuned for Social District expansions to come!)
Does it matter what kind of drink I carry through the Social District?
The drink doesn’t matter, but the cup does! Ask the bartender or server at the establishment to serve you your drink in a Social District-labeled cup. That cup gives you the freedom to start your stroll along the sidewalks of the district and even into participating retail businesses.
How do I know which retail businesses are participating in the social district?
Each business that allows Social District beverages to enter their space will have a Social District decal in the window, signaling you’re a-okay to pop in with your pour.
Can I take a drink I purchased at one business inside of other businesses along the route?
Yes and no. If it’s a non-ABC-permitted retail business that is participating in the Social District, you’re more than welcome to step inside with your bev. Spots that don’t serve liquor are allowed to have alcohol on the premise (as long as they have their social district decal).
However, if you bought the drink at an ABC-permitted business (like Plank Street Tavern) and walk down to another ABC-permitted business (like Cahoots), you just have to toss your Social District cup once you arrive and start fresh with a new drink. Since it’s an ABC law, it protects each business’s permit, so be thoughtful and toss your cup when you get to your next bar crawl spot!
What’s next for the Social District and downtown High Point?
The plan is for the Social District to continue to grow and expand throughout downtown and even into uptowne High Point. In fact, Councilman Hudson shared that the City is already working with the Uptowne Merchant Association and Visit High Point to expand the social district to include the stretch along North Main Street.
“Brown Truck Brewery and Sweet Old Bill’s took a leap of faith to first open in Uptowne High Point,” Councilman Ward says. “Now they’ve created a great amount of pedestrian traffic, which we want to expand.”
The great thing about the Social District is that now that it’s been created, it can be expanded as more and more businesses move to High Point. Councilman Hudson points out that businesses like Paddled South Brewing Co. and the upcoming microwinery, Nomad, made similar commitments to open businesses downtown to bring more foot traffic to the area.
“Now that we have those commitments, City Council will do all that we can to make sure those businesses succeed,” he says.
What safety measures are being taken by the City?
Plenty! The City has worked extensively to ensure that crosswalk lights and pedestrian push buttons have been installed around the Social District.
“City Council is always looking at safety,” says Ryan, “so that safety measures are in place whether you have alcohol in your hand or not.”
Additionally, City Council is working even now to install cross walks and pedestrian push buttons on North Main Street to prepare for the Uptowne expansion.
When can I start enjoying the social district?
Right now! The Social District is up and running, and participating businesses will be excited to let you join the fun. So head downtown this week to get you stroll on!
Ultimately, the Social District makes it easier for all of us to find new businesses to love along the routes of the places we already love to grab a drink. It also makes it easier for us to meet our neighbors and support our local businesses – which in turn means more opportunities for us to discover good in High Point!
“The more successful our businesses are, the more our city succeeds,” says Councilman Ward. “And the more successful our city is, the more our citizens succeed.”
“The more successful our businesses are, the more our city succeeds. And the more successful our city is, the more our citizens succeed.”
Councilman Wesley Hudson
Interested in learning more about the Social District or want to learn how your business can participate?
Discover our High Points,
The HPD Team