Kalamazoo approves commons refreshment area expansion


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Kalamazoo voted to extend the Central Commons Refreshment Area, expanding where alcohol can be consumed on the street.  

Kalamazoo piloted a commons area after the state legislature gave municipalities the option of forming “social districts” by passing Public Act 124 of 2020 in July.  

The Central Commons Refreshment Area pilot targeted an area of the Kalamazoo Mall from West Lovell Street to Eleanor Street.

It lets businesses sell drinks in special cups that can be carried outside of the business for consumption in the commons area of the district.  

The boundaries of the commons area were expanded Monday to include more businesses. The new area now extends to Michigan Avenue between Westnedge Avenue and Kalamazoo Avenue, Kalamazoo Avenue between Michigan Avenue and Park Street, Rose Street between Lovell and Kalamazoo and all the side streets in between.  

A map of the Central Commons Refreshment Area in Kalamazoo. (Courtesy: The city of Kalamazoo)

Thirty-Three businesses will now be able to take advantage of the commons area, which is up from 10 when the pilot started in September.  

Business in the Central Commons Refreshment Area include:

  • Entertainment District
  • Coney Island
  • Tempo Vino
  • Green Top Tavern
  • Fuze
  • Olde Peninsula
  • Stamped Robin
  • LFG
  • The Wine Loft
  • Final Gravity
  • Radisson Plaza Hotel
  • Principle
  • Rustica
  • Taco Bob’s
  • Central City Taphouse
  • Tibb’s Brewing Company
  • The State Theatre
  • Harvey’s on the Mall
  • Papa Pete’s
  • Park Club
  • Saugatuck Brewing Company
  • Kalamazoo Hotel Partners
  • Tin Can Bar
  • Shakespeare’s Pub
  • Kalamazoo Beer Exchange
  • Water Street Coffee Joint
  • Bell’s Brewery
  • HopCat
  • Food Dance
  • Maru Sushi
  • Old Dog Tavern
  • 600 Kitchen and Bar

At Monday’s city commission meeting, Commissioner Chris Praedel pushed the commission to consider adding Bronson Park to the commons area. Praedel says he was prompted to pull the item off the consent agenda after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a 3-week epidemic order closing indoor dining at restaurants due to COVID-19.  

A virtual Kalamazoo City Commission meeting on Nov. 16, 2020.

Praedel said expanding the commons area to the park could encourage people to come downtown during the holiday season to see the lights at Bronson Park.  

Commissioner Jeanne Hess asked Andrew Haan, president of the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership, what kind of impact expansion would have for businesses.  

Haan said he was “reluctant to put to put a dollar figure on it.”

He did say, “(Given the choice) to drive through a neighborhood in your car and see lights or come downtown and walk around and have a cocktail and doing it, I could see one being more preferable.”

“It’s not going to make or break things,” Haan added.

Haan also pointed out there are other events at the park with setbacks from COVID-19 that could benefit from the addition of Bronson Park to the commons area.

City Attorney Clyde Robinson told Praedel that Bonson Park was originally in the new zone, but he suggested it be taken out. The city of Kalamazoo has ordinances prohibiting drinking in city parks and the city couldn’t change those ordinances with a resolution as proposed at Monday’s meeting.  

Praedel and Commissioner Eric Cunningham asked the attorney a series of questions trying to find a way to include Bronson Park in the resolution that was ultimately passed.  

Robinson stayed firm in his opinion that the ordinance prohibiting drinking in city parks would have to be amended.  

One option Robinson gave the commission was to bypass the typical process of amending an ordinance requiring two meetings. He told the commission in an emergency an ordinance can be introduced and passed at the same meeting. He said it’s up to the commission to decide what an “emergency” entails.  

Praedel pointed out to fellow commissioners that time was of the essence in considering the changes to include Bronson Park. Praedel said he was hoping for something to help businesses during the three-week shutdown of indoor dining.  

If they stick to the two meeting process of amending an ordinance, it would happen until just before Christmas. Praedel said he would like to see this change to entice people to come downtown and walk around during the holiday season while decorations are up.  

The city commission passed the expansion of the Central Commons Refreshment Area Monday night with an amendment to include Bronson Park as soon as allowed by city ordinance unanimously. There was no further discussion on when exactly the amendment to the ordinance would be brought.  

The next regularly scheduled meeting for the Kalamazoo City Commission is Dec. 7.

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