On February 22nd and later on March 8th, Ludington's city council approved the creation of a social district for the downtown area and expanded it.  The general idea  behind these areas are to make it easier for restaurants and bars to take advantage of public outdoor spaces for customers to social distance and drink from open containers purchased at their facility. 

This wasn't a knee-jerk response by city hall; the legislation that allows these districts was signed into law by Governor Whitmer in July 1st, 2020 and adopted shortly thereafter in many locations throughout Michigan as a response to allow bars and restaurants the ability to operate more normally in the midst of restrictions that allowed most downtown businesses to only offer curbside, to-go dining.  The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) explored social districts back in late June 2020, unanimously recommending the creation of one back at a special Zoom meeting of that body on June 26th (that wasn't noticed to the general public and thus in violation of the Open Meetings Act). 

The recommendation lingered for months as it was sent up to the Buildings & Licenses Standing Committee and floundered until the beginning of 2021 as they tepidly researched the issue.  Had they been more thorough in this research rather than concentrating primarily on anecdotes from other communities and not on how it would affect Ludington's overall situation, they may have come to a better conclusion.  Only Councilor Les Johnson, who owned a local party store, voted against it, stating that he wanted to help businesses, but didn't see anything positive in that regard, just like me.  

The DDA were hoping to get the social district underway by St. Patrick's Day, the first social drinking holiday of the year, but only one business had their license back from the state by then (four currently have their license).  They have put sidewalk signs on street corners defining the Ludington Outdoor Social District (LOSD), if you walk down South James or Rath Streets you're likely to see these at some point:

On entering the district, you see the orange logo telling you to find a cup, when you go back that way you are instructed to empty your cup since you're leaving the LOSD.  If you read further, you'll notice that the community development director's business (Safety Decals) is a 'sponsor' of the district, so at least her business is doing okay with this district.  If you wonder how this sticker is attached to the pavement in some sort of permanent way, it isn't, it can peel right off.  For those wanting to play with the 'social drinkers' all you have to do is lift them up and turn them 180 degrees.  

As noted, the district expanded from being primarily on South James Street and neighboring alleys to spread out onto Ludington Avenue by the second council meeting.  The weird shape of the modified social district is shown below, allowing LOSD drinkers to cross busy Ludington Avenue with their beverages without issue.

The two main problems with social districts is that they promote the public's perception that the local and state government is condoning drinking and wandering about, one could even say the sidewalk signs encourage people to drain their glass when they get out of the district.  Most people travel by vehicle, so if they order alcoholic beverages while waiting for a seat when only 25% of a restaurant/bar is open, they may give up and go elsewhere by walking or by car and have nothing to absorb the alcohol consumed, all while believing that their behavior is condoned with the LOSD.

The second problem is that the LOSD is nothing but a restriction on the rights of those drinking in Ludington from what they had before.  The State of Michigan has little to say about how cities restrict their citizens and retailers on the use of alcoholic beverages.  The main restriction is MCL 436.1915 which only restricts consuming alcohol on public highways (not carrying a glass on a crosswalk) and says alcohol:  "may be possessed or consumed in public parks, public places of amusement, or a publicly owned area not licensed to sell for consumption on the premises."  The only limit to this right is a local government unit restricting that use in certain public areas through the use of their municipal powers.  

When one looks through the Ludington city code and charter, one finds very little in terms of restrictions on drinking in public places.  The only public place where alcoholic beverages are prohibited are at cemeteries, at Cartier Park campground at certain times, and hard liquors at park grounds (beer and wine containers must be in containers less than two liters).

There exists no local or state laws that prohibit anybody from walking on the sidewalks and parks throughout town while imbibing a two liter bottle of your favorite wine or beer.  In a city that has placed a lot of restrictions on drinking outdoors, you may need social districts if your council is unwilling to change those restrictions to help their local bars/restaurant, but you won't need that in Ludington. 

Those expensive stickers on the sidewalk are useless, those expensive cups and cup stickers used are equally useless, those special $250 permits being sold by the state to allow restaurants/bars to join a social district is a useless expense.  These costs are borne by the downtown businesses who supposedly benefit from social districts, with that fee and licensing money going to the local and state government.  The LOSD bars and restaurants need to pass that cost to the public by making alcohol purchases more expensive to recover their losses due to these costs. 

Our well-paid public servants, especially that one who's making money by selling sidewalk stickers, tell us that this extra cost will not negatively affect sales, but if those bars in this district raise their drinks by a dollar, they will lose business over time when the public finds out they can get better deals from those outside the LOSD.  Especially if they figure out they can walk to almost any public area in town with their adult beverage.

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I can't get over the slogan, "Get LOSD" ... two things come to mind, 1) Get lost in the alcohol, which is not a very healthy approach to individual, family, or community problems, 2) "Get lost, you peon citizens" which epitomizes the attitude of some on the city staff and Council, imo.

Beside that, those stickers are very confusing. Wait until out-of-towners have a drink or two. Which way is the out house? Find a bush.

My feeling is that this thirty-something cackling laughter, you don't-know-fun mentality that is seemingly voicing our city policy will be chaotic to those except the breweries to which they cater. But the city mariners bored out of their minds living on the boats for the summer, and tourists will probably love wandering around town drinking. Bring on the music and more tourist activities! And that's who our city benefits. Get LOSD, you who are paying the taxes. Next year more taxes, higher water rates. Less of our city to share, and like it or be shamed.

Thank you, Councilor Johnson, for having the wisdom to vote against this getting lost attitude.  The City Council is Lost and has no real vision for it's own taxpayers.

Funny slogans FS.

Funnier sidewalk sticker, Willy!  Thanks.  The Gretch looks like she got a whiff of the storm sewer urinal.  Or else she is repulsed at the offer of a drunk condom wearer.

It's an incredible acknowledgment of the near-sightedness of the process that the DDA looked into this at the subcommittee (5 members) level twice and at the board level (11 members) once, then had this issue looked at in the B&L standing committee (3 members) for half a year, with plenty of overview by city staff (CM, Asst. CM, LPD chief, CDD director, Marketing directors, etc.) and came to council without looking into the community's value of having a social district, when the overall result is more costs to the bars/restaurants, their customers, redundant signage, and the social damage inherent with the pushing of drinking in public by the local government. 

It would have been best for everyone (except for those in state and local government siphoning more money out of the private sector) that the city council would have rejected the social district for what it was, and instead put out a resolution in support of local businesses that wish to sell to-go alcoholic beverages to adults, respecting their right to consume that drink outside in safety and expecting those customers to drink responsibly, with a reminder that driving any vehicle while impaired is unsafe and unlawful, and a subtle warning that the LPD will strictly enforce laws pertaining to DWI or MIP.

Ironically, the only one besides Councilor Johnson to touch the red-flagged third rail of common sense for social districts was DDA member Jason Adam, but he lacked the common sense to admit his own conflict of interest in the LOSD.  His wife, Jamie Adam, is the main manager of Ludington Bay Brewing Co., one of the LOSD licensed members.  His wife's wishes won out in the end, and he voted for the LOSD at the committee level and board level.

Very interesting X. Thanks for the infro.

Good riddle, LL. No good answer, except those that cackle somehow seem to hold the reigns of the donkey that wears a horse's blanket and convince the council that this is hip.

Obviously Willy has gone down to the Indiana or Ohio border to find that other sidewalk sticker greeting our intrastate guests.  It has a good message for avoiding STD's, and has that message under a portrait of our governor, a sour visage which discourages any kind of sexual thoughts beyond sadomasochism.

Lake Lady raises a great point; the legislation for social districts does not allow for citizens to have any say in creating these districts, or for that matter eliminating them.  The law says these districts can be abolished after a public hearing, but does not allow for one before implementing them.  A community could be 90% against the concept of having these districts, but all they need is less than a handful of politically compromised councilors to establish one through a simple resolution.  

To answer your question, whether it was hypothetical or not, is that the police chief and city manager are not those that invoke these policies.  Truly, they can voice concerns and often kill bad policy by offering some opposition, but they do so at great peril for their career if the city council is hell-bent on doing their usual stupid.

City leaders have processed this without a care about how their overt endorsement of drinking in public will be received by the masses.  It's a shame, but that's what this legislation does.  Our state leaders have allowed liquor stores and recreational pot shops to remain open during the worst of our pandemic as critical infrastructure, shut down mom & pop businesses doing reputable work, they then give us this.  They're useless too.

What I don't understand is these round stickers--how does one know which way to go? Is that little half-arrow a pointer? It just looks like a circuitous spiral groove. Maybe in person they are more apparent, but how many tourists look down at the sidewalk while walking? And what drunk pays attention?  

And what tells you if you are coming or going?

I haven't read the Safety Decals instruction manual, however, if you navigate your way down James or Rath Street it becomes clear that as you approach the sign, the part of the circle you can read without twisting your perspective is what applies to you. 

Thus on entering the LOSD you should see the orange writing instructing you to find a cup.  Go past that, turn around, and you'll see the instruction to drain your cup.  If you come upon the darker blue or red letter message, you are traveling along the edge of the LOSD.  If you're at a corner of the LOSD you will see these signs on both sidewalk sides of an intersection.  Thus walking north from Dowland Street on the west sidewalk, you would see the orange side of a sign on the south side of Melendy Street, crossing you would see the red side, with the orange side at the left.  

I'm not the brightest person, but I think that the 'oriented sign' is not a bad idea, though I question the color coding.  I think the red lettering should have been used for the 'empty your cup' sign, as red generally denotes 'stop', go no further.  I think green lettering should have been used for the 'grab a cup' side, since it denotes 'go', move to get your cup of grog.  Yellow and orange may have been applicable for the other sides, which are effectively used to market the DDA, Safety Decals, and Nader's-- since these effectively parallel the border of the LOSD, and you risk the wrath of the Ludville gendarmes if you should venture towards the red side.

Better X would be to paint the sidewalks a bright florescent color in the area where you can legally carry rather than these stupid decals that are only in English and not written in other languages and braille.  Ideally the streets would also be painted a bright contrasting color to the sidewalks for drivers passing through these drunk zones and there could be constant signage reminding them that they are driving through a drunk zone and people staggering have the right away. Cross walks could be striped with additional stop signs much like the ones for school zones.  Ideally there would be no street parking in these areas and the speed limit would be reduced to 10 mph.

Local wino's could man stations when people are leaving the legal zone to assist people in draining their cups. These exits could be supplies with a bench, umbrella and a port-a-potty and a tip jar for the winos.

Your modesty outshines your brilliance here, X, for if you can make sense of the sidewalk stickers, anyone can (ha ha). I thought the same thing about the color, red should be "dump" and green should be "go find" a cup, like an Easter egg hunt, or look in a garbage can. It would be easier to find if there was less advertising (our back patting) on two quadrants. So does that mean that Nader's and Safety Decals paid for the stickers out of their pockets?

Another excuse to get drunk. Thanks City Council


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