Could Port Huron become the New Orleans of the North? New 'social district' may permit it

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that you must adapt.

Being able to find new ways to stay relevant in the days of social distancing has proven difficult for many a business, especially those that that rely on people gathering together under one roof.

Bars and live entertainment venues have been especially hit hard.

So it should come as a relief for the bars and restaurants of downtown Port Huron that a plan has been approved by city council to let the bars out onto the city streets. While patrons aren’t currently allowed to belly up for a cold one, they can stroll with one.

Could Port Huron be the next New Orleans? Or Savannah, Georgia?

City council has approved a plan for the Port Huron Social District, a blocks-long stretch of Huron Avenue into Military Street, from Glenwood Avenue to Court Street. It’s a zone that will allow for bars and restaurants to sell alcohol to-go and, what’s more, for it to be consumed on city streets. People can walk freely throughout the district, drink in hand.

While it’s a law passed by the state of Michigan to help businesses during these strange times, some city leaders are hopeful that it can become part of the new normal, well after COVID-19 has been contained.

"We hope that this could be a program that occurs year after year. It’s something that will not only get people to come downtown, but to keep them downtown," says Cynthia Cutright, director of the Downtown Development Authority.

"So long as it goes, this could be something that is unique to Port Huron. Not a lot of other towns are on board yet."

The city is putting together two outdoor common areas, complete with bartops, tables, and Adirondack chairs. They will be located at McMorran Place Arena Boulevard and the pocket park at the corner of Water Street and Military.

While those common areas will be outfitted as soon as Friday, July 17, expect the social district and its new rules to go into effect sometime in August, pending approval from the state.

The plans for a social district could dovetail nicely with another program to get people back on the streets of downtown Port Huron: Shop, Rock n’ Stroll. Port Huron has hired bands to play on the city streets every Friday from July 17 through Aug. 21.

"Thinking outside the box is the new normal right now. It’s about brainstorming ways to keep businesses and people safe," Cutright says.

"I think these programs will draw people downtown. It’s new and exciting."

Signup for Email Alerts