Vicksburg village launches ‘social district’

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg’s Social District was expected to open May 1, kicking off a designation that was months in the making.

During the April 19 village council meeting, Alex Lee, the village’s director of community engagement, said the district’s downtown boundaries are showcased on the village’s website. He said the social district is an area downtown where patrons can leave with a drink in hand from one business and walk to another. Contents of the specially designated cup must be consumed before entering the next business.

While the social district will never amount to Fremont Street in Las Vegas or Bourbon Street in New Orleans, village officials said it does loosen some rules that they hope foster patronage at the five participating establishments.

Lee said the village’s website and a QR code at various points downtown show boundaries of the district and its five participating businesses: Main Street Tavern, Village Hide-A-Way, Jaspare’s Pizza, Distant Whistle and Vicker’s Lakeside Tavern.

“A visitor can scan a QR code from any of our district boundary signs and be linked to a page that includes a map, social district rules and direct links to the businesses,” he said. “If you click on any of the logos of the businesses, you’ll go directly to their websites.”

Each of the five businesses has cups that feature the social district logo. The cups are 16 ounces for beer and 9-ounce cups for wine. Lee explained a sticker will be applied to the cup when a patron leaves and wishes to finish the drink en route to another business.

Hours of the social district are 4 to 11 p.m. Village manager Jim Mallery said the last social district alcoholic beverage can be sold at 10 p.m. He also said research is being conducted that would likely lead to the ban of smoking within the district.

Council member Rick Holmes said he recently had occasion to check out the social district in Saugatuck. All indications appear that businesses and visitors are in favor of the concept there, he said.

“The one thing that’s really surprising is families. You tend to think of this as a frat party … the images go through your mind that people are out getting tanked,” he said. “It’s not. It’s really interesting to have watched it both in the middle of the day and into the evening hours. It’s not a party atmosphere, it’s very calm and you just see people congregating.”

Holmes referenced a conversation earlier in the meeting about Vicksburg being ahead of other communities and being forward thinking. Establishment of the social district, he said, aligns perfectly with those goals.

In other business, council member Denny Olsen said a controlled fire at the former Plainsman Motel on U.S. 131 north of Schoolcraft has been delayed due to the discovery of additional amounts of asbestos.

Several area departments were planning to spend May 1 and 2 conducting intentionally-set fires for the benefit of arson investigations and other training. A rescheduled date for the activity hasn’t been set.

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