Grand Haven launching social district

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Haven is joining the list of West Michigan cities to launch a social district in its downtown area. 

For the last two summers, outdoor seating and barricades have been available in downtown Grand Haven, giving restaurants more room to serve customers despite COVID-19 restrictions. 

Several cities, including Holland and Grand Rapids, launched social zones in the summer of 2020 or 2021. Back in August, Grand Haven City Council jumped aboard the trend, approving a social district in their downtown.

Starting Friday, people will be able to buy alcoholic beverages and walk around the approved zone with drinks in hand. The city says the delay was in part due to the wishes of local businesses.

“They had all they could handle. Staffing was an issue so they were plenty busy. So they said ‘Let’s hold off. We’ll get into this more at the end of the season’ and there has been some delays,” said Grand Haven City Manager Patrick Mcginnis. “Getting the licenses in place, getting things processed through state liquor control, it’s kind of a three step process and that just took a little time.”

The new social district covers the blocks between Harbor Drive, Franklin Avenue, Third Street and Columbus Avenue. It will not extend to the water front. People will have to use specialty cups in the approved area. 

Grand Haven’s new social district covers the blocks between Harbor Drive, Franklin Avenue, Third Street and Columbus Avenue. It will not extend to the water front. (courtesy Grand Haven)

Grand Haven city leaders say although social districts started as a response to pandemic restrictions, they’re likely here to stay. 

“It’s sort of a trial here. I believe like the other communities on the lakeshore and in Grand Rapids, that it’s probably here to stay as long as it doesn’t start creating problems and it helps local business and boosts our economy, there’s no reason not to keep doing it,” said Mcginnis. 

After Halloween, the city will begin removing outdoor seating and barricades but the social district will remain open throughout the winter months. They say they may consider extending the area next year. 

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