Whiteville Social District Takes Next Step

Proposed social district for Whiteville. (submitted graphic)
Proposed social district for Whiteville. (submitted graphic)

Patrons of some restaurants in Whiteville could soon take alcoholic drinks as they walk through downtown.

The planning board has approved a draft Social District Ordinance. The vote came at today’s meeting of the board.

A public hearing will be held at the Sept. 27 City Council meeting, after which the council could approve the measure.

Social districts are a growing trend in municipalities trying to attract visitors to bars and restaurants. Visitors within a well-defined area of the business district can consume alcoholic beverages while walking down the street.

Whiteville’s proposal requires special enclosed containers that are unique to businesses within the district. The containers may only be used with the original vendor, and must be discarded before the patron leaves the district. 

Sales will only be allowed between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. Sunday. The ordinance does not allow unsealed containers of alcohol in vehicles or on sidewalks in areas not part of the social district.

The rule can also be eased during special events and festivals, according to the draft.

  Eligible businesses under the proposal would include bars and restaurants, breweries and distilleries that have beer, wine or mixed drink licenses.

Social districts have been successfully implemented in several North Carolina cities and towns, according to the N.C. League of Municipalities. Wilmington had one of the first in the state, and a number of special events have grown up around the practice.

A change in state law in September 2021 gave local governments the authority to create social districts. More than 20 other municipalities have already passed and implemented social district rules.

Businesses that do not want alcoholic beverages on their premises can post signs to that effect, and refuse entry to persons carrying alcohol. Property owners can still prohibit entry of anyone who is carrying an alcoholic drink, even if the proposal is passed.
Social districts do not exempt servers from North Carolina’s dram shop laws. It remains against the law to sell a person more than two malt beverages of wine drinks, or one mixed bevereage, at a time.

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Jefferson Weaver is the managing editor of columbuscountynews.com and news director for WTXY radio. He can be reached at 910.632.4965, or by email at jeffersonweaver@columbuscountynews.com.