Holland businesses hope social zone can help with pandemic recovery

Ottawa County

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A social district is on the way to downtown Holland. 

On Wednesday night, the city approved a proposal to designate an area of downtown for a social district, which allows people to buy alcoholic beverages and walk around the zone with the drinks in hand.

“It’s really just a way to support the restaurants that maybe you’d have a wait, waiting for your table to be ready and just enhance the experience for those enjoying our downtown,” City Manager Keith Van Beek said.

The new social district would cover about three blocks north to south and four blocks east to west between 7th through 10th streets and Pine and Columbus avenues.

A map of the proposed Holland social district. (Courtesy city of Holland)

The district is similar to zones already in place in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, but Holland city officials say they do not plan to move seating or road blocks onto the street like other cities. 

Businesses say they’re hoping the district will provide an economic boom after a tough year. 

“I’m very excited. I think we’re in for a very busy summer,” said Stephen Rich, the general manager at Hops at 84 East.

Though the district is still in the works, Rich says Hops has started to prepare for the launch date. 

“We will have alcoholic slushies that you can get. The sizes are limited; they can’t be more than 16 ounces,” Rich said.

Businesses say since they’re still not allowed to operate at 100% capacity, the social district could give them a much-needed financial boost.  

“With 50% capacity at all of the restaurants, there’s not a lot of seats for everyone so people are having longer wait times. The social districts will allow someone to get a drink, walk around,” Jeff Genova, the general manager at Big Lake Brewing, said.

Businesses will have to submit an application to the state to participate in the social district. The city says it hopes the change will make the already popular tourist attraction even more desirable.

“It’s been a long haul and tough economically for everyone, so if this is just one more thing that we can do to encourage a return to business, we’re happy to do it,” Van Beek said.

The city says it is still waiting for the final approval from the state. It hopes to launch the social district in June.

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