‘Stands and Pods’: Downtown Northville finds way to keep outdoor social district warm come winter

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches back into the cold weather months, many of the business-saving strategies employed throughout the summer are potentially threatened.

While many communities have found different ways to encourage sidewalk sales and patio expansions to stimulate business for local shops, bars, and restaurants, the attraction of drinks and dinner on city sidewalks might fade come December.

One Michigan community is turning to Germany for inspiration.

Downtown Northville has extended its social district The Twist, which allows participating businesses to sell alcohol to-go and to be consumed on certain city streets, to remain open until March 1, 2021.

The city’s Downtown Development Authority has tapped the experience of local business owner Manfred Schon to help inspire The Twist’s cold-weather response to COVID-19.

Schon, a native of Germany and now owner of Northville-based Up2Go, shared his cold-weather outdoor dining experiences with the DDA, spurring the creation of Heat in the Street.

“We are so thankful to be collaborating with Up2Go and numerous community sponsors on bringing ‘Heat in the Street’ to Downtown Northville,” says Lori Ward, director of the Northville DDA.

Heat in the Street will keep city streets closed to cars and The Twist open to people. Schon’s recollections of German outdoor dining has led to a “Stands and Pods” strategy for enjoying downtown in the winter months.

Vendor “stands” will line The Twist, with local restaurants selling food and drinks which can then be enjoyed in heated “pods,” which will be outfitted with high-top tables seating four to six people per pod. Food and drink can be purchased directly from participating establishments, too.

Heat in the Street will also have live music and other activities throughout the season.

“The DDA remains committed to supporting our businesses and the community. We are excited to build upon the success of our social district, launched over the summer,” says Ward.

“This new experience will provide an opportunity for all of the downtown businesses to continue welcoming guests safely and with the maximum capacity allowed under State COVID-19 guidelines.”

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