Cocktails to-go on tap in Lake Orion public areas
By Jim Newell
“Hey, Joe, get that beer to go.”
That’s a phrase – name subject to change depending on the individual – that people in the Village of Lake Orion may hear more often in the coming months.
The Lake Orion Village Council unanimously approved permits for four downtown restaurants during a special meeting on Aug. 19. The council has previously approved creating the social district during its Aug. 10 meeting.
The four restaurants signed up are Fork n’ Pint, 313 Pizza Bar, American Legion Post #233 and Wine Social. Businesses had to pay a $320 license and permit fee, said village Manager Joe Young
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed HB 5781 on July 1 allowing for to-go cocktails and the creation of social districts where people could drink from open containers outdoors in public spaces.
Social districts are designed to support the restaurants by allowing customers to order their food and drinks and then walk to an outside “common area” and consume their food.
It is also designed to encourage social distancing and outdoor dining, which is deemed safer than dining indoors during the pandemic that has largely devastated the economy, including the food service industry.
In the village, there will be common areas around the downtown with picnic tables for diners. For instance, someone could order a meal and alcohol beverage at Fork n’ Pint, get a to-go cup, and walk down sidewalk and streets to common area.
To-go cups must be plastic, not larger than 16 ounces and have the logo (or name) of the restaurant that issued the beverage printed on the side.
The village council unanimously approved sections of the downtown area – Broadway Street from Shadbolt Street to M-24 and Flint Street from Lapeer Street to Anderson Street – as a social district. Common areas are not yet marked. The Lake Orion DDA is still in the process of purchasing collapsible picnic tables for the common area.
The village, businesses and DDA are still working on the logistics of signage, waste disposal, garbage cans, seating, sanitization equipment and other details, Young said.
“Well, the council as a whole has been looking for opportunities to support the businesses downtown. We had four new restaurants open last fall. And we want to make sure we do everything we can to make sure that they survive, so we’re being very open-minded,” said village council President Ken Van Portfliet.
Oat Soda, Anita’s Kitchen, 313 Pizza Bar and Bitter Tom’s all opened in downtown Lake Orion in late 2019 or early 2020.
Van Portfliet added that it’s a difficult time for all businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and the village is trying to come up with ways to support the downtown business district while keeping the “health, safety and welfare” and policing enforcement in mind.
“We want public comment to hear what our residents want as well,” Van Portfliet said.
The village council also set the operating time of the social districts and common areas from the time a business opens until midnight, seven days a week. That means that as long as a restaurant stays open to midnight, it can continue to provide to-go alcohol beverages to customers who can then walk around downtown with open intoxicants until midnight.
Van Portfliet said he is not concerned with enforcement or rowdiness in the social district.
“I am not (concerned). My biggest reason is because of the people in our community. I feel that they’ll do the right thing and not abuse this social district, and will watch out for each other,” Van Portfliet said. “Time and time again the people in our community have always proven to be so supportive and do the right thing when it’s needed. That’s kind of our wild card.
“The LOPD, they’re going to do everything they can to make sure our community stays safe. They work hard at that,” he said.