MLive 2021 Summer Guide to Outdoor Social Districts in Michigan

3 Jun

MLive 2021 Summer Guide to Outdoor Social Districts in Michigan

As published on MLive, May 31, 2021 by Amy Sherman

Last summer the state of Michigan approved the development of outdoor social districts for the first time, allowing patrons to legally purchase and consume alcoholic beverages in approved areas outside. The move was in response to the pandemic shutdowns of indoor dining, and has since proved so popular that many cities are considering making these districts permanent. Michigan nows hosts over 40 different downtowns with outdoor social districts open and ready to welcome you.

There are two terms that get thrown around when discussing these outdoor areas. A ‘social district’ is the whole area that the local municipality designated to be the area where special open containers of legally purchased beverages can be enjoyed. The term ‘common area’ refers to specific public spots created by the municipality that are not tied to a specific business where people can enjoy their legal drinks together. The ‘common area’ resides within the social district.

Just because a location was approved for a social district doesn’t necessarily mean that they have one opened. We generated our list of districts from the State of Michigan MLCC site, and did the best to confirm which districts are currently operating. Some have closed for the busy summer months, others have just gotten approved and working on opening.

These social districts proved to be a life line to many businesses during the various pandemic shutdowns, and have now proved so popular with patrons that many cities have extended the dates for their existence. Some cities are now looking to make these special areas a permanent part of their downtowns.

Here is a comprehensive list of outdoor social districts across Michigan, as well as our Michigan’s Best podcast with Lisa Croteau, program manager at the Niles DDA Main Street, which is working to continue their outdoor social district known as the NODE throughout the summer.


Emmet County

Petoskey- Downtown Petoskey makes the claim that they were one of the very first social districts in Michigan. Participating places include Beards Brewery, City Park Grill, Duffy’s Garage and Grill, Palette Bistro, High Five Spirits, Tap 30 and POUR Kitchen & Bar. Known as the Common Area, the Petoskey social zone encompasses multiple blocks downtown, and is open daily from noon to 9 p.m..

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