Downtown Northville permanently closes city streets in favor of social district

What’s happening: The hardships that the COVID-19 pandemic brought on small businesses forced many business owners and community leaders to come up with innovative ways to keep customers coming back — even if you couldn’t eat or drink inside anymore. One of those ways was the social district, a Michigan law passed at the height of the pandemic that allowed cities and towns to set up designated areas for outdoor alcohol consumption. Towns like Alpena, Farmington, and Port Huron got on board and now, well after the restrictions on indoor dining and drinking have passed, their social districts remain. In downtown Northville, their social district was bolstered by the decision to close city streets to traffic. It’s proven so popular that the city has recently announced that those street closures are now permanent.

Road closed, opportunity opened: Northville City Council voted to permanently close East Main Street, between Center and Hutton, and North Center Street, between Main and Dunlap. The street closures will remain in effect year-round, in both the warm and cold weather months.

What’s there: Northville’s social district allows guests to purchase cocktails to-go from participating bars and restaurants — Table 5, Lucy and the Wolf, 160 Main, Browndog Barlor, Center Street Grille, Exchange Bar & Grill, Genitti's Hole in the Wall, Le George, Los Tres Amigos, Toria, and Simply Wine — and consume them in the designated outdoor areas. Enhancing the experience are food stands, dining pods, and, in the cold weather months, gas fire pits and heated outdoor structures. 

What they’re saying: “The DDA remains committed to supporting our businesses and the community. We are excited to continue the success of our Social District,” says Lori Ward, Director of the Northville Downtown Development Authority. “This new experience will provide an opportunity for the downtown and all of the downtown businesses to welcome guests to town as a destination to not only shop and dine but to experience events year-round.”

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.