More ‘social zones’ to expand outdoor bar and open food service in Grand Rapids


GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Starting next week, a slew of restaurants and bars in the city’s West Side and Southeast Side neighborhoods may have an influx of outdoor-like seating downtown.

Grand Rapids city officials told MLive they are reviewing and are close to giving the green light to three more “social zones” and have a few more underway. These areas will see portions of streets blocked off to give customers additional outdoor space.

As Michigan restaurants and bars reopened during the coronavirus pandemic, outdoor seating has become essential to their economic recovery, and local governments like Grand Rapids are helping.

Social zones were created to provide more seating for establishments due to restrictions on reopening, including serving customers at 50% of their normal capacity and maintaining a six-foot separation between parties due to COVID- 19.

In these social zones, which were launched in late June, customers can eat take out and take out food at nearby restaurants. In addition, they can drink beer or wine purchased and stored in a sealed container.

“The majority of people I heard expressed that they liked it, that it was something that enabled their business, now or in the near future, to serve more customers,” Lou Canfied said, director of the city development center. .

The new social zones, which will bring the total to seven, are planned in the corridors of Leonard Street, Cherry Street and Bridge Street.

Canfield said the zones are expected to emerge next week or early the following week. He identified the intersections closest to the areas for which the review is underway:

  • Leonard Street NO and Quarry Avenue NO.
  • Bridge Street NW and Stocking Avenue NW.
  • Cherry Street SE from Diamond Avenue SE approximately 500 feet west.

“We’re still expecting a few more areas near East Hills / Eastown, but I’m not sure exactly when or where at this point,” he told MLive on Thursday, July 2 in an email.

Two weeks ago, the first four zones appeared on portions of Bridge Street NW, Monroe Center Street NW, Ionia Avenue SW, and Monroe Avenue NW.

Related: Open-air “social zone” restaurant seats in Grand Rapids open today

“They are an important way for us to ensure that the downtown business districts and neighborhoods retain their vibrancy, as restaurants and bars are important businesses that attract people to these areas,” Canfield told MLive June 19 during the installation of the zones.

Shelby Gaskin, director of Morning Belle at 434 Bridge St., called the city’s support during the partial economic shutdown “unbelievable.”

“They blocked off part of the road so we could set up seating outside to make it more accommodating for guests,” Gaskin said. “They don’t have to sit so close to each other, they can enjoy the outdoors, the sun. Just sort of mingle and hang out.

Jarilee Rodriguez, who works downtown and was in the Monroe Center social area on Wednesday, said the areas allow for a pleasant break after being locked inside. She encouraged people to “sunbathe, get out of the house, keep some social distance.”

The news of more zones comes when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday, July 1, by executive order shut down indoor bar service in most of Michigan for establishments that make more than 70% of their gross revenue from the sale of food. ‘alcohol.

Whitmer also signed legislation authorizing the sale of take-out cocktails and the creation of “social quarters” where people of legal drinking age can purchase take-out drinks from adjacent bars and drink them away from the premises as well. that they remain in the designated place. social district.

The Grand Rapids City Commission will have to vote on whether to allow social quarters, but these new neighborhoods, if approved by city leaders, could overlap with existing and future social zones in the city, said Canfield.

The difference between social areas and social quarters is that customers wouldn’t have to bring sealed alcohol containers to drink in the area – they could buy them from a nearby restaurant or bar and haul them around the area. ‘common area.

Zones and neighborhoods are different from the additional outdoor seating that restaurants and bars may request for their own private property, as opposed to the public property involved in social zones.

So far, the city has received 28 requests, 22 of which have been approved, for additional or new outdoor seating on private property.

When MLive interviewed The Mitten owners Chris Andrus and Max Trierweiler shortly after it reopened in June, they said their goal was to hopefully be part of a social neighborhood area this summer.

The Mitten is located at 527 Leonard Street. Andrus has said he wants to work with the city and state to start building outdoor seating.

“We may not be able to enter the building, but we can do it on the street and in the parking lot. So that could be a really fun summer, ”Andrus said in an interview on June 9.

Two weeks after the start of the social zones, the feedback was generally positive. Canfield noted that some drawbacks, such as package delivery and access to waste and recycling services, have emerged, but the city is facing them.

He also admitted that he had some disapproval of social zones as these are places where people can congregate and drink during a pandemic.

His rebuttal, however, is that social distancing and other COVID-19 prevention measures still apply in these areas.

Canfield said he did not anticipate these areas would be a source of the spread of COVID-19, as they are outdoors and respect social distancing.

“If these were clearly understood to be the source of a public health problem, we would address them,” he said.

“I think, however, that the current understanding is that being outside with social distance, or physical distance, between unrelated parties is good enough compared to being inside.”

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More Grand Rapids restaurants are closing due to employee coronavirus cases

Friday July 3: Latest developments on the coronavirus in Michigan

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