Downtown Grand Rapids "Refreshment Areas" are now open. That means you can walk around with an alcoholic beverage - but there are restrictions, Fox 17 reports.

Firstly, it's not BYOB. Drinks have to be purchased from the list of licensed, participating businesses.

Drinks also have to be in designated 16 ounce containers with the name of the bar and the refreshment zone name on them.

You have to stay within the designated refreshment zone and you cannot take a drink from one bar into another... so basically, you can walk with your drink outside in the zone or sit in a park within a zone-- like Canal Park or Ah-Nab-Awen Park.

So where are these refreshment zones? The City designates them as "Monroe North Commons Area", "Hotel/ Arena Commons Area", and "Bridge Street Commons Area".

City of Grand Rapids

You can find additional maps here.

There are also specific operating times for the refreshment zones:

    • Sunday – Thursday 7:00 AM until 10:00 PM.
    • Friday – Saturday 7:00 AM until midnight.

As for how the zones came to be, earlier this summer House Bill 5781 was signed into law in Michigan allowing communities to establish "Social Districts" as a tool to "promote economic stabilization and recovery efforts amidst the pandemic." In July, the Grand Rapids City Commission established Downtown Grand Rapids as a Social District; Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. worked with the City and State to create the three refreshment zones within the Social District.

Managing Director of Planning and Design for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. Mark Miller tells Fox 17,

“This is really about expanding the business footprint outside and giving them another avenue to sell what they’re selling."

So far, these are the bars that have been approved by the City of Grand Rapids to serve the refreshment zones. According to the City, several more are currently moving through the permit process.

        • Luna
        • Tin Can
        • House of Wine
        • Amway Grand Plaza
        • JW Marriott
        • Courtyard Downtown
        • AC Hotel
        • DeVos Place
        • Hyatt Place

The City will update the list of approved establishments here.

Drinking outdoors is one of my favorite Michigan summertime activities, so I'm pumped about the zones, even though it seems like there are a lot of rules to follow. I get it though, you don't want people bringing their own booze and partying in the streets. I think it's a good way to help out local businesses during the pandemic too - and more spaces to enjoy adult beverages means more space to spread out and socially distance.

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