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  1. What you need to know to visit the area.

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    Grand Rapids Social Zones

    Outdoor Dining, Shopping, Fitness & Fun

    Grand Rapids is going all out to support local businesses and help visitors maintain social distance. Social zones allow restaurants, breweries and other businesses to serve customers in outdoor public spaces – streets, sidewalks, parks and parking lots that have been transformed into open-air marketplaces.

    With the advent of colder weather, the city has given businesses the go-ahead to install heating devices and wood fires as well as tents, canopies and other temporary structures — so you can stay warm and toasty while dining and drinking al fresco!

    Prioritizing Health of Businesses & Customers

    With COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of people who can gather inside a business, social zones expand the space available for visitors to dine and drink. More space makes it easier to maintain the six-foot distance health authorities recommend to combat the spread of the virus. Plus, there’s a general consensus the virus doesn’t transmit as easily outdoors, and zones will be equipped with hand sanitizer stations to help reduce the risk of surface transmission. Visitors are still required to wear masks when not eating or drinking!

    What to Expect

    Each zone is different because the businesses surrounding it are different. All zones include tables and chairs – spaced at least six feet apart – where patrons can eat takeout meals and drink alcohol in sealed containers purchased from nearby restaurants. Some restaurants and pubs are adding heating devices and structures to these public areas while others are winterizing their own patios and decks.

    Downtown Social Zones

    More than 170 restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, retail stores and service establishments are eligible to participate in four downtown zones. Click here for a map of the zones. Below are examples of cold-weather interventions in each zone – explore our list of winter spaces for outdoor dining.   Keep in mind that you may have to reserve outdoor spaces, so always check business websites before you go.

    Monroe North

    City Built Brewing, Field & Fire Café and Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea are among the restaurants offering outdoor service and seating in this trendy riverside section of downtown.

    Bridge Street 

    New Holland Brewing – The Knickerbocker and The Sovengard have added heaters and firepits to their expansive, easy-to-social-distance-in outdoor spaces.

    Center City 

    The House of Wine, Reserve Wine & Food, Uccello’s Ristorante and Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar are among those that have installed heaters, domes and/or huts to enable comfortable, personal outdoor dining.

    Heartside/Ionia Ave 

    Enjoy outdoor dining in comfort at The Cottage Bar & Restaurant, Luna GR and One Twenty Three Tavern, among others.

    Social Zones Outside Downtown

    Many restaurants in Uptown, a walkable shopping-and-dining district just a five-minute drive east of downtown, have winterized their outdoor spaces to welcome guests. Rockford, 15 minutes from GR, has instituted Outdoor Refreshment Areas in its charming downtown area. Visitors can enjoy food and drink from such restaurants as The Corner Bar, Grill One Eleven, Ramona’s Table, Rockford Brewing Company and more at public picnic tables warmed by fire pits. You can also purchase an alcoholic beverage from an approved establishment and carry it through the Refreshment Area.

    Refreshment Areas

    Now you can enjoy an adult beverage while strolling around the city. “Refreshment Areas” in select Social Zones allow patrons of participating restaurants, pubs and entertainment venues to carry an open alcoholic beverage outdoors. The drinks must be in designated containers only available from participating businesses, and patrons must stay within the boundaries of each Refreshment Area. (You cannot travel between Areas.) Refreshment Areas operate Sunday-Thursday from 7am-10pm and Friday-Saturday from 7am-midnight. Check out maps and details for Downtown, Bridge Street and Monroe North Refreshment Areas.

    Refreshment Areas FAQs

    What types of alcohol beverage can I purchase to carry around the designated Refreshment Areas?

    Beer, wine, and liquor are all allowable drinks when served in a designated container. Drinks must be purchased inside a participating business.

    Can I walk anywhere with my drink?

    No. Patrons must stay within the designated Refreshment Area boundaries. Leaving a Refreshment Area with an alcoholic beverage violates State and local law.

    Can I take my drink from the Bridge Street Refreshment Area over to the Downtown Refreshment Area or the Monroe North Refreshment Area, and vice versa?

    No. Patrons cannot carry drinks between the three designated Refreshment Areas. Drinks must be consumed and disposed of within the Refreshment Area in which they were purchased.

    Can I take my Refreshment into other businesses?

    No. Once a designated Refreshment has left the business where it was served, it must be consumed before you enter any other establishment.

    Can I take an empty designated Refreshment container into a business so I can reuse it?

    No, the only drinks allowed are those purchased from businesses participating in the Refreshment Area program. No cans, glass bottles, or outside drinks are permitted within the boundaries per State and local law.

    What local businesses are participating in the Refreshment Areas?

    There are many places where you can stop and purchase a drink to go. Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) has a complete list on their website. Check back often as many establishments are currently moving through the permit process and will be ready to serve you soon!

    Parking and Transportation

    Some street and lot parking has been eliminated to make room for seating and other amenities. Traffic routes have also been shifted in some zones. Visit the Grand Rapids City website to find the nearest available parking to each zone. You can use the free DASH bus service to travel within and between downtown social zones, which are adjacent to each other.

    Social Zones Outside Downtown

    The city has also identified additional commercial districts in neighborhoods outside downtown for outdoor space activation. That means restaurants and other businesses in these districts can work with the city to create social zones or expand their space for the winter. You can also purchase an alcoholic beverage from an approved establishment and carry it through the Rockford Refreshment Area – as you can in the Downtown Muskegon Social District along Lake Michigan (40 minutes from GR).

    Pets Welcome

    These are public spaces, so pets on leashes are allowed. Individual restaurants might not allow non-service animals in their outdoor dining spaces – please check first.

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