Love the outdoor eating and drinking areas around Grand Rapids? Good news! The social zones are going to be sticking around for a while!

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The Grand Rapids City Commission has extended the social zones, which anchor the seven social district “refreshment areas”, through November 1, 2022. It also voted to allow certain temporary outdoor uses and structures on private property through then too.

Initially put in place to help bars and restaurants survive during the pandemic while capacity limits were in place, the City Commission decided to extend the zones for another year "as the pandemic continues to cause significant economic disruption worldwide and within the local business community."

Lou Canfield, chief of staff in the City Executive Office, said in a release,

“Despite the restoration to full occupancy, some consumers are wary of indoor public spaces due to health concerns. This caution may continue through the upcoming winter given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For these reasons, the Commission voted unanimously to help support local businesses through the upcoming season amid the ongoing pandemic while also mitigating some consumers’ concerns.

It's also taking into account two recent surveys on Grand Rapids social zones which found:

  • 86% of respondents rated their experience with the social zones good or excellent
  • 69% of respondents like the expanded outdoor seating and the to-go alcohol sales
  • 82% would like to see social zones continued after COVID

Social Zones were first launched in June 2020, and expanded to allow consumption of alcoholic beverages in blocked-off, designated outdoor areas in August 2020.

Some of the rules for drinking alcohol in the refreshment areas include:

  • Drinks have to be purchased from the list of licensed, participating businesses.
  • Patrons must stay within the designated Refreshment Area boundaries.
  • Drinks must be in designated containers, up to 16 ounces. No cans, glass bottles, or outside drinks are permitted within the boundaries per State and local law.

Canfield says that some of the existing zones will be adjusted ahead of winter to accommodate snow removal and other seasonal service requirements. Some seating areas will be removed and others will be reduced in size, in consultation with partner organizations and nearby businesses.

So it sounds like we'll see the return of igloos and heated tents this year outside of some bars and restaurants in GR.

I'm always down to enjoy a cocktail outside! And I'm definitely on board for anything that helps local bars and restaurants, so I'm glad the social zones are sticking around!

What do you think? Are you glad they're staying?

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