More Outdoor Drinking Coming in New Year

As of December, Panama City, FL, allows visitors to consume alcohol two days a week while strolling through the Downtown Panama City Social District.

City officials approved the new district despite opposition from skeptics who say looser rules encourage public drunkenness.

Panama City was one of many communities to launch an outdoor drinking district in 2023. And more are on tap for 2024.

Proponents of social districts say the looser rules around drinking are a way to bring visitors downtown. Opponents say too much liquor encourages crime and acts as a step toward turning downtowns into mini-versions of Bourbon Street.

Despite fears, a number of states have loosened their rules around public consumption of alcohol in recent years. One interesting twist brought the goals of the city and county into conflict.

In Franklin, NC, the administrative center for Macon County, the town council is considering a social district that would operate from noon to 9 p.m. daily.

But Macon County doesn’t want to participate — county officials have asked to be removed from a map of the proposed district. The county courthouse, gazebo, and clock tower are downtown landmarks, but county-owned property would not be part of the town’s social district.

More on outdoor drinking areas appears in the January issue of Downtown Idea Exchange newsletter. Click to learn more about Downtown Idea Exchange and other resources for revitalizing downtowns and commercial corridors.

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