Niles City Council approves three social district permits

NILES – Three businesses within the approved Niles social district moved one step closer to being able to serve adult beverages to enjoy outside of their establishments within the approved areas. The licenses, approved by a Niles City Council vote Monday evening, will now need to be approved by state agencies.

The social district will allow adults to purchase alcoholic beverages and cocktails from specially licensed restaurants, bars and breweries to drink to-go within the defined social district. Six total businesses with existing liquor licenses qualify to be able to apply for the social district permits.

Iron Shoe Distillery, Niles Brewing Company and The Brass Eye were all approved for a social district permit in a seven to one vote by council members, with council member Georgia Boggs voting “no” on all three.

Boggs said her concern was about high school students being around the social district in downtown.

Boggs also voted against the approval of the social district in August 2020.

City Administrator Ric Huff said the social district’s hours of operation will be seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., when it is launched.

“This [vote] is just allowing the businesses that operate within the [social] district to opt-in to serving within that district,” said Mayor Nick Shelton.

Earlier in April, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Liquor Control Commission approved the Niles social district.

According to Lisa Croteau, director of marketing and administration with the Niles Downtown Development Authority, Monday night’s vote will allow the three businesses to apply to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to apply for their state social district license.

Croteau said she hoped the state Liquor Control Commission would respond with permits by June to have the social district up and running.

Later in the meeting, council member Jessica Nelson said she had heard from three Niles residents in regards to signage posted in a cul-de-sac to prevent parking.

On March 22, the Niles City Council voted to prohibit parking at the west end of Springfield Circle, Gettysburg, Hawthorne and Laurel drives, citing the need for space for bus pick-up and drop-off, snow removal and emergency vehicle access.

Th signage was installed within the past two weeks, with four “no parking in cu- de-sac” signs on each street.

“Several citizens are concerned about what they perceive as an overkill of signage,” Nelson said. “I spoke with City Administrator [Ric] Huff this morning, and we are working on a solution to make people a little happier down there.”

Nelson said she had thought the March 22 vote was a “slam dunk.”

“We can all learn from [this] and ask questions throughout the process in what we think might be easy issues, and try to make sure we communicate better with our citizens to try to get feedback,” Nelson said.

Council member John DiCostanzo said he had heard from the same residents about the signage.

“I’m not quite sure what Administrator Huff has in mind, but I know [the residents] are annoyed with the size and quantity of signs, and that we may have put some restrictions on some of the cul-de-sacs where they may not even have been necessary,” DiCostanzo said. “I think it’s worth some time to investigate a little deeper and find a solution that works for the buses, works for the emergency vehicles and snow removal, and works fairly well for the residents down there.”

Niles Public Safety Director Jim Millin said the concern for the parking involved more than just school buses.

“We need to consider public safety equipment, fire trucks, and so on, in case we need to get in there to fight at fire at someone’s house,” Millin said.

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