With The Syndicate, a new social district allows for drinks-to-go in downtown Farmington

With rumors swirling that Michigan’s shutdown of indoor dining at bars and restaurants will be extended until at least Monday, Feb. 1, the bars and restaurants of downtown Farmington should find at least a little solace in their community’s adoption of the social district.

Dubbed The Syndicate, Farmington’s social district allows for downtown businesses to sell alcoholic drinks to go, which can then be enjoyed within a designated district of city streets and public spaces. The benefits of social districts are two-fold, increasing business downtown while still allowing people to maintain social distancing standards.

Social districts were made possible by the State of Michigan in an effort to boost downtown businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Syndicate first opened on New Year’s Eve.

“We’ve already seen initial success with The Syndicate and we’re getting it started in the cold weather,” says Kate Knight, executive director of Farmington’s Downtown Development Authority.

“We’re really encouraged about what this means going into the summer.”

The designated areas of The Syndicate run along the spine of Farmington’s downtown, Grand River Avenue, roughly stretching from the Sidecar Slider Bar to LOFT Cigar Lounge. The main common areas include Riley Park and Gazebo Park. Participating businesses include Basement Burger Bar/1UP Arcade Bar, Farmington Brewing Company, Los Tres Amigos, Masa, Mi.Mosa, and the Sidecar Slider Bar.

Outdoor heaters have been placed throughout the district and in front of downtown businesses. Shelters, including three greenhouses, are being installed in the park.

The Syndicate is open seven days a week from noon to 10 p.m.

It’s an exciting development for downtown Farmington, says Knight, and that excitement isn’t just limited to the bars and restaurants. Retail shops, bakeries, and other downtown businesses have enjoyed the extra foot traffic.

The Riley Park Ice Rink has been especially busy, she says.

“I’m excited for the additional foot traffic the social district brings,” Knight says.

“Traditionally the first quarter of the year is a bit of a desert, it can be slow for businesses. We’ll do anything we can do to get people downtown.”

Visit Downtown Farmington online for more information about The Syndicate and participating businesses.

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