Business owners and residents debate public alcohol change News, Sports, Jobs

News photo by Steve Schulwitz Black Sheep owner Kris Conger pours a beer for a customer on June 4th. downtown neighborhoods.

ALPENA – Some business owners will not allow alcohol in their stores when a so-called “social district” will launch in downtown Alpena starting next month.

But downtown officials remain confident enough that business owners will commit to making the neighborhood social – which allows people to buy an alcoholic beverage at a participating business and consume it in public parks, sidewalks. and some other businesses – succeeded in stimulating tourism and business traffic downtown.

The Alpena Downtown Development Authority came up with the idea, Alpena City Council approved it last month, and the state approved.

Anne Gentry, executive director of the DDA, said she had commitments from several establishments who intend to obtain the necessary permits to participate. She said the goal was for the district to be operational by Independence Day.

“I’ve been told that eight have already applied so I have no concerns about participating,” she said. “Plus, anyone who doesn’t do it now can do it next year.

News photo by Steve Schulwitz Shear Envy owner Madison Frishett arranging artificial nail samples while she was at work on June 3. while they have their hair done or their nails done in his shop.

Many business owners in the immediate area support the idea and hope it will increase traffic to their businesses and increase profits. Some people, however, have questions and concerns and wonder what drinking alcohol will do to the downtown vibe.

Shear Envy salon owner Madison Frishett said allowing a client to sip wine while having their hair done could improve the guest experience, especially for special occasions like weddings or bridal showers. She said the social district could add a much needed burst of downtown life.

“It’s so dead, especially during and right after COVID, and I think it will help attract more people,” Fishett said. “There are a ton of new stores, and that might get people here to walk around and visit them. “

Myers Fashions Etc. owner Ellen Gould said she would not allow open intoxicating drinks in her store because she was concerned “The merchandise could be spoiled by someone spilling a glass or dropping a little too much and maybe being responsible for it. I also have concerns about underage drinking because I think it will be very easy for that.

All beverages sold for consumption outside of a participating business should be placed in special disposable cups so other business owners know they contain alcohol. Several homeowners told The News they feared these cups would litter the floor, just like cigarette butts are now.

Soaps and Such owner Kelly Bruning said an increase in waste was at the top of her concerns, but more downtown trash cans could help allay that concern.

Bruning said business owners are working hard to keep their stores clean inside and out, and they don’t want more trash picked up.

“We already have a lot of people who are already leaving their cups, and I think that will make them accumulate even more” she said.

Gentry said the additional DDA bins should help limit items not properly disposed of, and she said a cup recycling plan could help reduce the amount of waste as well.

If people behave responsibly, Bruning said, she will allow alcohol in the store if the cups have lids. Still, she worries about the prospects of intoxicated people at her facility.

“Even now we get people acting a little bit stupid, but as long as they don’t open containers, we’ll let them in. she said.

Black Sheep owner Kris Conger said the tavern intends to ask the state for the necessary credentials to participate in the social quarter, and everyone at the bar is excited. She said finding creative ways to capitalize on the new neighborhood could increase profits. One of those ideas, Conger said, is to deliver cocktails to Culligan Plaza.

“All they would have to do is call and order and we could just run across the street,” said Conger. “We are looking forward to it and I have no reservations about it.”

Butch Bruder, who lives in Rogers City, visited downtown Alpena with his wife and grandchildren on June 7. He said media reports of Alpena’s social district raised his eyebrows and curiosity. Bruder said he travels often, including places where he enjoys alfresco dining and cocktails, and likes the concept of the social district, but wonders if any issues will arise.

“I like it, but I just don’t know how to transport a drink from one place to another and what kinds of problems it could cause” he said. “It wouldn’t stop me from bringing my grandchildren downtown, but I’m just wondering if there will be any situations you don’t expect.”

Some in Alpena fear that drinking alcohol in public could lead to more intoxication and public crimes.

In some places where social districts currently exist, this has not been the case so far, according to police officials. Ludington Police say the town area has not been a problem.

“We did not notice anything that we could attribute to the social district”, Captain Steve Wietrzykowski, of the Ludington Police Department, said. “We always play things by ear and things can change. We will change accordingly. But for the moment, there has been no problem.

Trisha Keil, of Alpena, said encouraging drinking in public is a wake-up call. She said Alpena has more to offer than alcohol and that city leaders should promote things like natural resources and other activities.

“It seems that we have a bar on every corner in Alpena and it is not enough” Keil said. “Now they want to let people drink while shopping?” It seems to me to be a recipe for disaster. Why don’t they encourage people to take advantage of our Great Lake or our forests and trails? It seems like everything has to include the drink now. “

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