They’re not carrying open containers of alcohol with them now, but bar hopping starts early in Charlotte’s South End. At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, people leaving work and walking dogs got an early start to their evening at Brickyard, Hi-Wire Brewing and other bars in the neighborhood known for its vibrant night life and trendy restaurants. With a City Council vote, those pedestrians could opt to take their drink on a walk. Social districts received Charlotte City Council approval last week, and South End businesses have already expressed interest in codifying the ability to drink publicly outside the doors of restaurants and bars. Once an organization officially requests a social district, it will work with council to determine rules and boundaries before council votes in favor of the district.

Here’s what those enjoying happy hour on thirsty Thursday in South End during the last week in August had to say.

Charlotte Has to Step Up

Joanna Rose and Celeste Pope moved to South End less than a month ago and spent happy hour Thursday enjoying a drink together at Hi-Wire Brewing. If social districts were established in their neighborhood, it would “promote good vibes.” 

“I’m originally from Raleigh and I know that they just did that and I feel like to rival that Charlotte’s got to kind of step up now,” Pope said.

Raleigh’s downtown social district started Aug. 15 to “achieve our goals of supporting small businesses and creating a vibrant environment,” Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin told The News and Observer

Just a short walk from Hi-Wire Thursday evening, Java Nelson was drinking a beer and people-watching from his ground-level apartment. Living in the middle of South End, Nelson said he typically walks when he goes out to drink. He likes the idea of not having to throw out his drink when leaving the bar for his walk home. Jacob Feight, a South Carolina resident, drives into South End occasionally to see concerts. He thinks if rules are in place and people act responsibly, social districts are a good idea. “I think if people are being responsible and doing what they’re supposed to do, I think that’s fine with me,” Feight said.

Shawn Davis, who works in security on weekends in Charlotte’s South End, is more skeptical.

“It’s a good thing because it will clear out the bars and the places pretty fast, but at the same time, you’re gonna be on the sidewalk and people are gonna try to get multiple drinks to come outside,” Davis said. “You still got the risk of fights and stuff.”

What Did the Charlotte City Council Do? 

While no social districts have been implemented here, the Charlotte City Council approved the concept at a meeting August 22. This gives local merchant organizations, neighborhoods and businesses the opportunity to request a district in their area. 

Here’s what we know so far. 

What are social districts? 

Alcohol social districts allow neighborhood and merchant organizations to request the creation of areas that allow people to bring purchased drinks outdoors in predetermined boundaries. 

When will they be implemented? 

That’s up to the individual neighborhoods who will bring requests for social districts to City Council.

Where can people get to-go drinks from bars? 

Right now, nowhere in Charlotte has implemented social districts. Organizations from South End, Plaza Midwood, NoDa and Ballantyne have expressed interest in the creation of social districts in their neighborhoods. Other North Carolina cities that have implemented social districts according to the state ABC commission include Raleigh, Kannapolis, Greensboro, Madison, Monroe, Newton, Norwood and Selma. 

Why is this possible? 

Social districts are possible due to House Bill 890, a measure allowing cities and counties to define outdoor spaces where people can legally drink alcoholic beverages bought from a state-permitted business.

This article appears courtesy of our media partner The Charlotte Observer.