By a 7-2 vote on Tuesday, Dec. 21, the Greensboro City Council established a “Social District” in downtown Greensboro, where people can legally walk around with alcoholic beverages in designated to-go cups.

City Councilmembers Sharon Hightower and Goldie Wells cast the no votes, after much discussion.

As is the usual practice for the current City Council, the first public discussion of the Social District was after the motion had been made to approve the new ordinance, and it was abundantly clear that the votes had been lined up for passage before the meeting.

This City Council prefers to do business in secret small group meetings.  If a majority of the City Council is not present, then the meeting is not covered by the North Carolina Open Meetings Law.

In the map above, the new Social District is outlined in red, and it appears to have been drawn by a committee.

Hightower questioned why Center City Park was not part of the social district, and she suggested she knew why but would not articulate the reason. She said, “I think it is a recipe for disaster.”

Councilmember Justin Outling noted that the map of the Social District “was not very contiguous.”

Outling asked for an explanation of why Center City Park, which often had many people experiencing homelessness in it, was excluded, but Le Bauer Park, which had a different clientele was included.

Councilmember Tammi Thurm asked, “How do we plan on addressing individuals who purchase their drink at, say B. Christopher’s, and cut through Center City Park to get to LeBauer Park?”

Assistant City Manager Trey Davis said that public safety officers would be able to remind people of the parameters of the Social District and that there would be a lot of signage.

Davis also noted that while people will be able to walk around the Social District with an alcoholic beverage in an approved cup, they would not be allowed to enter into another establishment that had a license to sell alcoholic beverages with that cup.

Hightower suggested that the people who frequent Center City Park would be pulling those cups out of trash cans and finishing the drink.

Hightower said, “I would really like to revisit this and take some more time to look at it.”

Wells said, “I don’t know about people walking up and down the street with a drink.  I don’t know that we have enough ambassadors and police to keep up with that. I was going to vote for this but now I’m having second and third thoughts about that.”

Davis said that the city hoped to have the signage in place and have the necessary to-go cups in order to implement the Social District by March 1.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan noted that the Social District would only be in effect from noon to 9 p.m.  She said that by state law the city could have extended the time period for the Social District to midnight.