Greensboro’s new social district along State Street welcomed roaming alcohol consumption on April 1.

The first social district, an area of the city where customers can sip alcoholic beverages from participating businesses while they walk around, kicked off downtown in March 2022. In January, council declined to extend the boundaries of the downtown district but added State Street as a second location during a Dec. 20 city council meeting. Mayor Pro-Tem Yvonne Johnson along with councilmembers Sharon Hightower and Goldie Wells voted against the amendment. Councilmember Zack Matheny was absent.

The change had initially been slated to go into effect the next day, on Dec. 21 at noon. However, Mayor Nancy Vaughan made a motion to suspend the start date until April 1 in order to allow more time for conversations with business owners on State Street.

Heading toward North Elm Street, the boundaries of the social district lie just before Georgia Street past State St. Jewelers. In the other direction, the social district extends just past Bull City Ciderworks and ends before North Church Street.

The social district also juts out along some streets connected to State Street, with signage indicating its boundaries.

The timeframe is enforced from 12-9 p.m. Monday through Sunday; alcoholic beverages may  be purchased only from participating businesses inside of the social district and consumed within its borders. The container must also clearly identify the business from which the alcoholic beverage was purchased. Containers may hold a max of 16 fluid ounces and can’t be made of glass. They must also display the statement, “Drink Responsibly – Be 21” in no less than 12-point font, as well as a logo or marking that is unique to the State Street social district.

Social District cups must be clearly marked (photo by Gale Melcher)

Despite last week’s April showers, business owners on State Street are already noticing an uptick in business.

Owned by father and son duo Dorn Miller and Tyler Miller, State Street Wine Company is located in the heart of State Street.

“With it just kind of starting last Saturday, last Saturday was one of our busiest days, if not the busiest day,” Tyler Miller told TCB. While they’re still getting an idea of how much will change, Miller said that business has been steady during the week.

“Every night we’ve had people coming in who will walk down the street,” Miller said.

Miller noted that while some of the shops aren’t participating in the social district, the ones that do have had “people walking in and out.”

Miller also said that they haven’t noticed anyone breaking any of the social district’s rules such as the 12-9 p.m. timeframe, adding that their company closes at 9 p.m. anyway. Bull City Ciderworks also closes around the same time, depending on the day of the week.

Another shop that noticed a busier Saturday than usual was Eclectic by Nature, owned by proprietress Tavane Taylor. Located at the corner of State and Bradford Streets, the metaphysical gift shop is also home to two felines. Merlin the cat observed shoppers while they wandered through the store. Merlin declined to comment on the new district but obliged to pose for a photo.

Merlin the cat didn’t answer TCB’s requests for comment (photo by Gale Melcher)

The success of the social district downtown helped pave the way for State Street, which was mentioned during the Dec. 20 meeting by Mayor Vaughan.

“In speaking to some of the retail owners in downtown Greensboro since the social district started… they have noticed an increase in their business and they’ve noticed an increase in repeat business,” Vaughan said, adding that she believed that the city owed it to the State Street business owners to “give them an opportunity if this is a way to increase their business.”

However, not all of State Street’s business owners have been too thrilled about the change. 

During an April 4 city council meeting, Mary Ann Contogiannis — owner of the Renaissance Center for Plastic Surgery & Wellness — spoke against the social district.

Contogiannis ran for office in 2022 to represent North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District, but lost in the Republican primary.

“There’s a big difference in posting a sign on your door saying you’re not participating in the social district when it is all around you,” Contogiannis said, requesting that the social district stop at her building on Roseland Street.

Contogiannis also spoke at the Dec. 20 meeting with concerns about alcohol consumers potentially acting inappropriately toward patients after they are discharged.

Participating shops must have a sign that shows they are opting into the social district (photo by Gale Melcher)

Assistant City Manager Trey Davis clarified during the meeting that businesses are not forced to participate in the social district, saying, “If a business is in the identified map area, then they can post signage to indicate that they don’t welcome people who are consuming alcohol inside their establishment.”

Rhyme and Reason sits squarely on the corner of State and Roseland Streets. Like other businesses, the gourmet chocolate shop has also been feeling the effects of this new opportunity. Founder Elizabeth Tully said that there had been “a lot more foot traffic coming this far up the street” and that it’s been great for the business so far.

“As far as I know, everybody on the street has been really excited about it and we’ve had a good experience so far,” Tully said.

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