Grand Rapids maintaining social districts for another year

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids will keep its outdoor social districts, created in the pandemic to allow for more outdoor seating and to keep people moving between restaurants and shops, for at least another year.

The City Commission last week approved extending the several social districts around the city through Nov. 1, 2022. Businesses can also keep up temporary outdoor structures, like the huts and igloos that restaurants set up for use during winter, through then.

A map of the downtown refreshment area in Grand Rapids.

The districts generally allow people to leave bars and restaurants with drinks, moving between establishments to keep foot traffic up. The goal was to help out businesses while COVID-19 restrictions were in effect. The zones proved popular and the city decided to continue them as the pandemic drags on, even though the broadest state restrictions have expired.

“Despite the restoration to full occupancy, some consumers are wary of indoor public spaces due to health concerns,” City Executive Office Chief of State Lou Canfield said in a Wednesday statement. “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.”

Some of the zones will be adjusted ahead of the winter season to accommodate snow removal and other seasonal services.

It’s possible the social districts could stick around well after the pandemic. The city said that recent surveys showed 82% of respondents would like to keep using them after the threat of the virus has diminished.

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