KALAMAZOO, MI – In a move to help businesses facing the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, the Kalamazoo City Commission has approved new rules to create outdoor common spaces in the city center, where drinking is allowed.
The Kalamazoo Town Commission approved the changes at its regular business meeting on Monday, August 3.
The city commission approved the item recommended by the city manager’s office, adopting an ordinance amending Chapter 4A “alcoholic beverages” to allow the creation of social quarters and common areas, and passing a resolution designating social quarters. containing plan areas.
With the highest concentration of licensed establishments in the city downtown and with data supporting the need for interventions, the city chose the Kalamazoo Mall, Michigan Avenue and associated adjacent blocks (see attached map) for the first zone. The proposed common area would operate seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Guests can have a drink in the commons area, stroll, shop in-store, browse a gallery, or pause for a drink on a bench or table in the public domain, depending on the city’s schedule. A commons zone can be established at any location in the city that has three or more licensed establishments contiguous to the commons zone, the agenda says.
The new rules now encompass two dozen businesses listed in the City Package, as follows: The Gatsby, Wild Bull, District Square, Skydeck, Loft 310, Coney Island, Tempo Vino, Green Top Tavern, Fuze, Olde Peninsula, Stamped Robin, LFG, The Wine Loft, Final Gravity, Radisson Plaza Hotel, The Union, Principle, Rustica, Taco Bob’s, Central City Tap House, Tibb’s Brewing Company, The State Theater, Harvey’s on the Mall and Papa Pete’s.
The package does not list some of the favorite nightlife spots in Kalamazoo in and around downtown that are outside the designated common area, such as Bell Brewery, Hopcat, and others.
Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership chairman Andrew Haan said more zones could be added and other companies have expressed interest.
Haan spoke about the benefits of the program, which is similar to other upcoming programs in cities across the state. Haan said the rules could be subject to change.
The area will be well signed and disposable cups are needed, along with other rules, Haan said.
“We are delighted with it,” Haan said on Monday. The organization is focused on supporting businesses, he said, estimating that half a dozen or fewer businesses have closed in the city center.
“Our goal is to reduce vacancies. If the vacancies increase, our aim will be to fill them again, ”said Haan, and it is essential that the city center and other businesses remain as active as possible. Similar programs have been successful elsewhere, Haan said.
Communities in Ohio, including Toledo, have been successful in operating under the similar Designated Outdoor Cooling Zone program, in place since 2015.
The Kalamazoo program will be regularly monitored to verify compliance, cleanliness and economic impact, the city said.
The city said COVID-19 and executive decrees closing restaurants and bars have had a dramatic impact on businesses in the state. Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership surveyed businesses to better understand the impacts and found that 75% reported revenue declines greater than 50%; 59% of companies said they had to lay off employees; 30% expect to rehire fewer employees than those who were laid off; and 42% of businesses reported a moderate to very high probability of closure. Additionally, downtown visitors were surveyed, and many said they were more comfortable patronizing businesses in outdoor environments, the city said.
Public Law 124 of 2020 was enacted in July 2020 to help offset similar impacts statewide, the city said. PA 124 allows municipalities to designate “social districts” and “common areas” within these districts, where customers of licensed establishments can receive alcoholic beverages.
In accordance with PA 124, establishments will be required to serve in plastic cups not exceeding 16 ounces that identify the social district and the registered establishment serving them. No other open container will be allowed in the common area. The area will be maintained by Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership, the city said.
Adjustments to schedules, operations or other policies may be made at a later date, if deemed necessary. Additionally, additional common areas could be created if businesses in other parts of the city center or other nodes in the neighborhood show interest, the city said.
Commissioner Jeanne Hess said the most important point about the effort was to “keep people working”.
The agenda includes more details about the plan:
The city of Grand Rapids created “Social zones”, where streets are blocked off to give customers additional outdoor space to sit.