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Gibsonville approves new “event-based” social drinking district, 4-1


Gibsonville’s board of aldermen has approved the concept, and the first proposal, for establishing a new event-based social drinking district for the downtown area.

Unlike other local social districts in Burlington and Elon, however, the Gibsonville variation was repeatedly described as “event-based.”

Rather than having regular hours when people can buy alcoholic  beverages at designated stores, bars, or restaurants, Gibsonville’s social district would be instituted for specific events in the downtown area.

So, for instance, while Elon has its daily hours for social district drinking set at 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. seven days a week, Gibsonville would have its drinking hours only in connection with individual events that would be set and approved by the board of aldermen.

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Burlington also has regular hours, although confined only to weekends (Fridays and Saturdays between 12:00 noon and 10:00 p.m).

Gibsonville’s social district would consist of both sides of Main Street from Kimber’s Restaurant (at the corner of Main and Wharton streets) to in front of the U.S. Post Office and Fidelity Bank.

[Story continues below map of new social drinking district.]

It would include the town green and would also extend a block or more back along Lewis Street to Eugene Street.

The board ultimately voted 4-1 for adopting an ordinance to establish the event-based social district.  Mayor Lenny Williams, who does not vote except in the case of a tie, expressed his support for the concept.  Mayor pro tem Mark Shepherd, and aldermen Bryant Crisp, Irene Fanelli, and Tangela Mitchell voted in favor.  Alderman Paul Dean was opposed.

On a subsequent vote to allow the first implementation of the ordinance to be on Thursday, April 11 between 5:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. for a Girls’ Night Out event, the board voted 5-0 in favor.


Public comments

Al Ciarochi, III, of 108 White Poplar Drive, Gibsonville, was the lone public speaker who spoke about, and advocated for, the creation of a social drinking district during a public hearing that the town’s board of aldermen held Monday night.

Ciarochi also urged Gibsonville’s aldermen to expand the concept from one just offered during special events to a social drinking district that could run from the spring through the early fall.

“As of last month, there are at least registered 55 social districts across North Carolina, according to the North Carolina ABC commission,” including Selma, Raleigh, Elon, and Burlington, Ciarochi told the aldermen.  “It is obvious that any business that sells alcohol will immediately benefit, but I would argue that all businesses in our town benefit.

The chief benefit is the potential for increased foot traffic for our local businesses and restaurants.  It is imperative as a town that we continue to explore innovative policies to assist our local businesses in any way that encourages more people to attend special events.”

Ciarochi also insisted that the creation of a social drinking district in Gibsonville would encourage organizations to host more special events in town; foster a “work-live-play type of environment”; and promote social cohesion.

Ciarochi also urged the aldermen to expand the operations for the social drinking district; rather than have it operate only during special events, he suggested allowing it to run every weekend, from Thursday through Sunday.  “The risk is low considering you’re in control of how it operates,” and he believes that the social drinking district could “strengthen the bonds that unite us as a community,” Ciarochi told the aldermen Monday night.

As he explained it for the aldermen, Ciarochi said that a social drinking district is a designation that local governments in North Carolina can enact to allow alcohol sold at one participating establishment to be transported from another participating restaurant or business.  “Social districts are totally governed by local boards,” he said Monday night.  “I’m advocating that tonight as a little step that would be really easy for people to follow; that would be from April 1 through September 30, from a certain time to a certain time – just leave it at that.”

In written public comments submitted to Gibsonville’s board aldermen prior to the meeting, on March 28, Corliss and Wayne Meadows of 7031 Kivette House Road, Gibsonville, urged the aldermen to consider the potential unintended consequences of establishing a social drinking district.

“Who wants to be at an event, with their family, small children, with people all over with their beer or mixed drinks,” the couple wrote in their letter.  “We want Gibsonville to be a family-oriented City of Roses, not a bar.  Not a “Pottersville.”  People that come to drink are probably not coming to shop.  People that don’t drink may not come to shop because of this social environment…This is Gibsonville, N.C., not New York City; nor do we want it to be.”

In brief comments before the board voted, Mitchell said she considered the concept “positive all the way around,” and suggested that the move is “going to help Gibsonville grow.”

Fanelli emphasized the “very limited basis” of the parameters surrounding the social district. The board will have to approve each proposed event and specific hours of operation for future social district events.

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