Plaza Midwood Social District to Open Soon

Published on February 29, 2024

City of Charlotte stainless steel social districts cup

The long-awaited launch of the city’s first social district is not so far away. Ahead of the launch, City Speaks spoke with Jason Michel, executive director of the Plaza Midwood Merchants Association, to discuss what residents can expect after the launch, community concerns and the logic behind the reusable cups.

This interview has been edited for brevity.

Plaza Midwood will be Charlotte’s first-ever Social District. Can you explain what that means and how it benefits the neighborhood?

Plaza Midwood, now more than ever, is a great example of a "10-minute neighborhood" filled with small businesses across industry sectors and surrounded by wonderful multi-family and single-family communities. We are also a destination for the region to enjoy the arts, fashion, cuisine, nightlife, etc. Our intention and expectations regarding establishing the Plaza Midwood Social District are to enhance the walkability of the neighborhood, activate the pedestrian networks and encourage guests to explore and experience Plaza Midwood in all its bohemian glory.

Signs are posted to show the perimeters of the Social District, but as you’ve clarified online, the district is not active yet. Can you tell us when the Social District is set to begin and if the neighborhood is planning any kind of kick-off or celebration?

As the Plaza Midwood Social District is just an enhancement to our area, we have no plans to celebrate it in and of itself. In early March, guests should start seeing stickers on the doors of participating businesses where they can purchase the official Plaza Midwood Social District cup and enjoy ‘sippin' & strollin'’ within the district boundaries. The Plaza Midwood Merchants Association, neighborhood businesses, and residents will continue to celebrate what makes our neighborhood truly special: the diverse entrepreneurs, artists, friends, and families that call Plaza Midwood home.

Social-District-Stickers.png

Plaza Midwood businesses within the social district boundaries will display stickers identifying where to-go beverages can be purchased (purple), where to-go beverages can be consumed (green), and where to-go beverages are not permitted (red). 

What can you tell us about the reusable cups?

We are very proud of the reusable cup solution that our partnership with Envision Charlotte has made possible. Though the logistics of the circular economy designed around the cup may present a learning curve for participants, we feel the positive environmental effects of avoiding single-use or even recyclable plastics are well worth the effort. After roughly seven uses, the cup is carbon neutral.

How does the reusable cup system work? 

The 16 oz stainless steel cup is your token to participate in the social district. After your initial purchase of $8 from a participating establishment, you can reuse or swap (if undecorated and undamaged) the cup at all participating establishments in the district. When done with your outing, you can take the EMPTY cup home for future use, or if the cup is in good condition (undecorated and undamaged), you can return it to a participating establishment for a discount or cash reward. Per state and local law, the cup can only be filled with an alcoholic beverage by a trained server at a participating ABC-permitted establishment. We will work closely with our members and law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance or adjust as laws evolve.

Some residents have safety concerns, particularly surrounding pedestrians and street traffic. How are those concerns being addressed ahead of the launch?

The key to public safety regarding alcohol in a retail and entertainment corridor is responsible serving. All ABC permitted establishments have gone through training, and the laws regarding the serving of alcohol to non-intoxicated guests remain the same. The only change within the district is that a non-intoxicated guest can now be served a to-go drink in an official Plaza Midwood Social District cup. 

We’re also working with city staff and other partners to continue to develop Plaza Midwood as a pedestrian-first community. We are advocating for traffic calming with expanded on-street parking throughout the social district, more frequent and more visible crosswalks, protected bicycle lanes, electric shuttle services for neighboring areas, and to better connect our area to public transit. Basically, anything to reduce friction between pedestrians, bikes, and cars.

Lastly, is there anything else you want people to know about the Plaza Midwood Social District that we haven’t yet asked you? 

We are excited to be the first social district in Charlotte and join the other active social districts throughout the state. A lot of hard work, financial resources and thoughtful planning has gone into this effort, and we are honored to have been awarded this privilege. We will work with the city and our partners to ensure a smooth transition to this newfound liberty and responsibility for our community.

Plaza Midwood Social District Fast Facts

  • Social District hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Sunday.
  • Social district beverages are only allowed in businesses displaying a green social district sticker.
  • Social district beverages are not allowed inside businesses that do not have a social district sticker or are displaying a red social district sticker.
  • Social district cups and to-go alcoholic beverages can be purchased at establishments displaying a purple social district sticker. However, outside beverages are not allowed in those establishments.
  • The Plaza Midwood Social District is a privilege and can be modified or rescinded at any time.
  • Any concerns or issues can be reported to socialdistrict@plazamidwood.com, or NC ALE at 980.781.3000. Call 911 in the event of an emergency.