Open containers of beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages will be allowed in an area around Fayetteville Street starting August 15 after Raleigh’s city council approved the new “social district” in a unanimous vote Tuesday. 

The district, allowed by a state law that went into effect last year, encompasses blocks east and west of Fayetteville Street, parts of the Warehouse District, City Market, and the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. 

Drinking will be allowed in the social district seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Alcoholic drinks will be in branded cups to prevent people from bringing alcohol from home into the district or participating businesses. 

Raleigh officials hope the district will create more foot traffic downtown and boost businesses that are struggling after the COVID pandemic. 

In the district, people will be able to buy drinks at places like Watts & Ward or cocktail bar Bittersweet and then walk around downtown with them in to-go containers. They could have dinner at Poole’s or Sitti and then order drinks to go as they make their way toward a show at Red Hat Amphitheater or Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. They could pick up a beer at Crank Arm Brewing Company and then leisurely stroll over to Boxcar Bar + Arcade.

The Raleigh Convention Center is also included in the social district, making for a nice night out when conventions are in town. 

Members of the Economic Development and Innovation Committee modified the hours initially proposed for the social district to include Sundays, so they could catch the brunch crowd, and to end at 10 p.m. instead of 11 p.m. in an effort to limit late-night partying.

Members also expanded the boundaries to include parts of the Warehouse District after receiving feedback from local businesses and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, said council member Jonathan Melton. 

“A couple of the businesses over there were heavily involved in this public process and were initially left out,” Melton said Tuesday during a city council meeting. “The Downtown Raleigh Alliance feels strongly that the inclusion of that small section will help us get the proper feedback for the social district.”

The social district is being launched as a pilot program with the expectation that it will eventually become permanent. During the pilot, city council members plan to continue to gather feedback from nearby residents and business owners included in the district, Melton said. 

A poll conducted earlier this year shows some are worried about how the city will enforce the boundaries of the social district, manage litter and prevent drunk and disorderly behavior. During the pilot program, city staff will consider ways to prevent littering, the best way to notify people of where drinking is allowed, and whether the boundaries of the social district should change or stay the same. City staff will provde a status report to the city council early next year. 

If the Fayetteville Street social district is successful, the city could create more social districts in other areas. City council members have discussed the possibility of creating a social district on Glenwood South, a controversial proposal as longterm residents of the area have complained about increases in crime, litter, and drunken and disorderly behavior in recent years as more bars and restaurants pop up.

Raleigh is the biggest city in the state to create a social district since the North Carolina legislature passed a law allowing them last year. Greensboro launched its own social district in March, while Durham and Charlotte are also in the midst of planning for one.

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