The social liquor district now includes Hackley Park in downtown Muskegon

MUSKEGON, MI — Visitors to downtown Muskegon drinking establishments can now bring their drinks to Hackley Park.

The park has been added to the Downtown Social District now that state law has clarified special event complications.

The Muskegon City Commission agreed on Tuesday, April 26 to expand the boundaries of the social ward to include the park.

The city’s social district is extensive, stretching the full length of Western Avenue from Pine Street to Ninth Street and also including a few side streets.

Participating drinking establishments within the Social Neighborhood can sell alcohol in specially marked cups to patrons who can then walk with them around the Neighborhood. Customers may bring alcoholic beverages to suitable businesses, provided they do not serve alcohol.

Including public parks in downtown social neighborhoods is something other cities, like Petoskey, have done before, Dave Alexander, Muskegon’s business development manager, told the commissioners.

The park had been excluded from the social district, originally enacted in 2020, because special event liquor licenses were not permitted in social districts. This meant that the popular Parties in the Park, for example, would not have been able to sell alcohol if the park was in the neighborhood.

But the rules have changed with the recent passage of a state law that allows special event liquor licenses in social districts.

The law relieved the traditionally Western Avenue-focused Rebel Road motorcycle rally that had to have its beer tent in the park because it was outside the social district. This year, Rebel Road will have at least one drinks tent on Western Avenue, rebranded as Rebel Road during the rally.

Related: Rebel Road motorcycle rally beer, the music returns to Muskegon’s main street

The change passed by the City Commission does not allow alcoholic beverages in Hackley Park at special events in the park that include liquor sales. For example, it allows Parties in the Park, which raise money for local nonprofits, to continue selling drinks without competition from other downtown establishments.

The new rule does not allow drinks outside or inside the park during such special events.

“I am thrilled that state law has been updated so that our social districts can play well with a special events liquor license,” Mayor Ken Johnson said.

The commission also expanded the social district to include the Port City CIO Hall, 490 W. Western Ave. The CIO hall was originally in the social district but asked to be moved out of it so it could accommodate its fundraising tent during Rebel Road, Alexander said.

Related: Temporary closure of Rad Dads’ in downtown Muskegon needed for it to join social district

With the change in state law, the CIO hall can be in the district and still have its special event liquor license. It can also now choose to allow alcoholic beverages inside participating establishments, Alexander said.

There are currently 21 establishments that sell alcohol in the Muskegon Social District, although some of them, like the town’s Farmer’s Market, only sell alcohol occasionally.

The city also has a smaller social district in the Lakeside business district.

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