City commission approves new social district for West Fulton

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The West Fulton Social District joins two other social districts that were established to help restaurants and bars survive the economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy Grand Rapids City Commission

Grand Rapids’ newest social district soon will be coming to Fulton Street on the city’s West Side.

The Grand Rapids City Commission on Tuesday approved the new West Fulton Social District on the 1100 block of W. Fulton Street between Marion and Garfield avenues NW.

The district, expected to be operational in June, enables the sale of alcohol by Joey’s Tavern and Putt Putt’s Bar — qualified Michigan Liquor Control Commission licensees — for consumption by their patrons in specially labeled cups within the social district boundaries.

The West Fulton Social District joins two other social districts — Downtown Grand Rapids and Wealthy Street — that were established to help restaurants and bars survive the economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Capacity limits continue to impact the local Grand Rapids business community, especially restaurants and bars, and even as the vaccination rate increases, demand for outdoor dining is expected to remain high due to warmer weather and consumer health expectations.

“Restaurants and bars, which have been key contributors to the vitality of downtown and neighborhood business districts have been and will continue to be hard-hit by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 safety protocols,” Lou Canfield, chief of staff in the executive office, told the city commission. “As we’ve seen in the other two districts, increasing the availability of outdoor dining space will help this neighborhood business district recover from this pandemic.”

The West Fulton Business Association worked with the city to propose two seating areas in the district. One will be set up along the street parking area in front of the McDonalds, 1130 W. Fulton St., and another small one along the street parking area in front of Joey’s Tavern, 1125 W. Fulton St. Cement barricades will form the boundary of both seating areas. Existing lanes of traffic will not be impacted.

“This social zone will make our district more inviting to outside visitors, increase the overall volume of sales these bars can do during a pandemic economy with capacity limits, enhance the outdoor environment on the street and help with the overall revitalization of the West Side,” West Fulton Business Association President Tom Lamancusa said. “It will also provide people with a more consistent feel citywide as these zones are now popping up downtown, on Bridge Street, up in Rockford and many other areas.”

The city commission will review the status of the social district prior to Dec. 31 to ensure that the commons areas are maintained and to review any impact the social district has had on the public health, safety and welfare of the neighborhood.

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