BRIDGMAN – Bridgman City Council approved the designation of part of downtown as a social district (pending approval from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission) at its May 3 regular meeting.
Michigan Public Law 124 allows municipalities to establish social districts that provide common areas where two or more contiguous licensed establishments can sell alcoholic beverages in special take-out cups in common areas for consumption.
The Bridgman Social Quarter will be managed by the city through collaboration with the Corridor Improvement Authority (CIA) and the Greater Bridgman Area Chamber and Growth Alliance (CGA).
Customers of bars, distilleries, brasseries, restaurants, tasting rooms and similar eating establishments located near a social district can purchase alcoholic beverages in specially marked open containers to take them to the common areas of the district for consumption. .
Bridgman’s approved social neighborhood includes Lake Street, between Maple Street and Mathieu Street, and the City’s municipal parking lot. Its common areas include all the sidewalks of the Social Quarter, the city’s municipal parking lot, and the yard owned by Hoof2Hanger / Sandpiper. Qualified licensees who could potentially participate include China Café; Lake Street eats; Lazy Ballerina Winery; Tapestry brewing company; and the transitional artisanal Ales.
“This neighborhood will provide these downtown hotels with the flexibility to safely serve guests beyond their current limit of 50% indoor dining capacity,” said Arthur Havlicek, president and chief executive officer. the leadership of the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber. “Not having to turn away these customers again will benefit their business and invariably stimulate other economic activities throughout the community. “
Havlicek originally presented the concept of a social neighborhood in downtown Bridgman to the Corridor Improvement Authority on March 8, 2021.
The city hopes to leverage the inclusion of the municipal parking lot by using it to potentially host live music, open-air markets and other small-scale attractions meant to attract and entertain visitors while enjoying the benefits. refreshments from surrounding establishments. Outside of these occasions, the neighborhood will operate year-round, seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. under the supervision of participating establishments and municipal staff.
The total estimated cost to establish the social district is $ 5,500, about half of which will be recovered through the sale of cups, stickers and trash cans. Establishment costs, as well as ongoing maintenance and operation costs, will be divided between the CIA and CGA (who have agreed to share the district establishment costs, including those associated with operations, interview and special events).
The Bridgman Social District logo will be used on mugs, signage and decals. Other signage will be used to indicate neighborhood rules.
During the May 3 meeting, city manager Juan Ganum said the original proposal had the boundaries of the social district extending to the intersection of Lake and Church streets.
“After some discussion, it was decided that it would be beneficial to reduce the size of the district,” he said.
Ganum said the Bridgman neighborhood is smaller than those in cities like Muskegon or Niles (with a newly approved social neighborhood in St. Joseph), but the intention is the same.
“Help spur economic development and attract people, especially to hospitality businesses – the restaurants and bars that exist …
Corridor Improvement Authority chairman Hannah Anderson said that in the short term she believed the social district would ease congestion in the city center while opening doors for businesses facing 50% capacity.
“It just opens up a lot of opportunities for these businesses, COVID or not. “
Lauren Kniebis of Lazy Ballerina Winery said their Bridgman tasting room has outdoor seating, but she expects to have a designated outdoor area (including the garden next to the Sandpiper) to help them a lot in the during the summer and even fall to come.
Municipal counter John Bonkoske asked three questions about social neighborhoods – What’s in it? How many established districts across Michigan are small like Bridgman? ; And how are protocols such as those that prevent people from spinning around the district supervised?
Havlicek said a major gain is to bypass the 50 percent capacity limit and draw people into the community. He said there are several small communities out of Michigan’s 45 with social neighborhoods such as Adrian, Clinton and Vicksburg.
He said state rules require two licensed establishments, noting that Bridgman has three and could grow to four if Lake Street Eats reopens this summer.
Havlicek said licensees will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the rules.
Kniebis said “we are responsible for making sure people don’t drink too much and to make sure they play by the rules.”
City council member Stacey Stine said the social district could help extend the season for local businesses later in the fall and earlier in the spring.
Council member Jan Trapani suggested that everyone meet after Labor Day to assess the functioning of the social district and get feedback from citizens and businesses.
Ganum said he plans to hold a pre-social district establishment meeting between the licensees and other establishments in the area.
Trapani said business owners would buy trash cans from the CIA and be responsible for it.
Ultimately, the resolution to establish a social neighborhood in downtown Bridgman was approved by a 5-0 vote with
Also on May 3, Ganum reported that a bill recently introduced to the state legislature (House Bill 4722) would, if passed, allow short-term rentals in any residential area.
He read part of the bill as follows: “For zoning purposes, this is residential use of the property and use permitted in all residential areas.
“So this would essentially prevent local zoning when it comes to short-term rentals,” he said, adding that the bill was supported by the real estate lobby.
“This may apply to the city of Bridgman more than any other local government unit in the state of Michigan because we have one of the most stringent short-term rental restrictions in the state. Six months our minimum short term rental period, ”he said.
City attorney Sara Senica said the bill, if it becomes law, could potentially turn every house in residential neighborhoods into short-term rental.
“And that doesn’t allow the city to pass regulations regarding short-term rental that wouldn’t apply to a single-family home,” she said.
Ganum said the city is currently trying to bring properties that rent out in violation of city rules into compliance.
“It’s kind of a cat-and-mouse game,” he said later.
City council has agreed to consider a resolution opposing the bill at its next regular meeting.
House Bill 4722 was introduced by State Representative Sarah Lightner on April 27 and referred to the Trade and Tourism Committee the same day. Among the 15 other sponsors of the bill is the 78th District State Representative, Brad Paquette. 79th District State Representative Pauline Wendzel (who represents Bridgman) was not listed as a sponsor on the website www.legislature.mi.gov/.
Ganum’s written report to city council also included an April 26 letter from the Lake Charter Township Board of Directors in response to the idea of forming a Shoreline Protection Committee which concluded: “The Township of Lake Charter is not interested in adding another government actor to the current process that is in place. Therefore, the Township of Lake Charter believes that participation in this shoreline protection committee would be a futile endeavor.
Several council members expressed their disappointment at the township’s decision.
And on May 3, Ganum announced that Mathieu Street, Willard Street and Baldwin Street are slated for surfacing work this year. He added that Lake Street should be milled and redone in 2023 from Church Streets to Gast.