Mid-Michigan social districts are here to stay

Social districts return to Mid-Michigan
Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 6:40 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - They were a huge part of keeping restaurants alive during the pandemic. Now, it looks like social districts are here to stay.

Background: City of Lansing considering resolution to keep social districts permanent

They’re designated spots where people can wander around with carryout alcoholic drinks from a business. On Albert Avenue in East Lansing, for example, the entire road will be shut down to welcome the city’s Albert El Fresco Dining Area.

And it will stay that way all summer.

The city said social districts will probably remain a part of its summer tradition, and East Lansing isn’t alone.

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Rudy Richmond manages Jolly Pumpkin in downtown East Lansing. He told News 10 opening their restaurant mid-pandemic was a rough start that he worried about constantly.

“It was hard to get our name out there at first,” Richmond said.

But then came summer. The opening of East Lansing’s Albert El fresco area brought business to the downtown area, right to Jolly Pumpkin’s front door. That’s why he said he was excited to hear it was coming back.

“We’re honestly super excited. We heard actually a few months ago that they were doing this again,” Richmond said. “So, we ordered some more patio tables to get ahead of it this year. It was really nice last year to see all the families, especially after COVID, we thought it was cool that the community is getting back together.”

Albert El Fresco was created to give people space to enjoy the outdoors and what their community has to offer. Richmond says its good business, but it’s also just plain nice to see people out again.

“It was exciting to see people getting out and doing fun stuff again with their families,” Richmond said.

East Lansing doesn’t permit open alcohol, but other social areas in Lansing allow for it.

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City officials said what was once a lifeline is now here to stay. Cathleen Edgerly is a representative of Downtown Lansing, Inc.

“We’re really excited about our social districts continuing to be a part of our future within downtown Lansing, and of course I’m sure Old Town and REO Town would agree too,” Edgerly said. “It’s attracting new businesses. Businesses who maybe were focused on one type of product or another are taking a different look at these social districts.”

Edgerly said it’s good for business, but it’s also changing the way we dine for the better.

“We’re not going back to the way things were back in 2019,” Edgerly said. “This is how we move forward, we become more adaptable as communities and we become stronger too in our downtowns and neighborhoods.”

There are three social districts in Lansing: Downtown, REO Town and Old Town.

Not every single businesses is participating, so you’ll want to make sure you check which ones are. A list of participating businesses can be found in the Downtown Lansing, Inc. website.


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