Traverse City shifts to a healthier consumer culture
Traverse City has a downtown drinking culture issue, according to the Healthier Drinking Culture Strategic Plan.
The project is led by the Downtown Development Authority, the City of Traverse City and the Traverse City Police Department. City Police Chief Jeff O’Brien says alcohol is the underlying reason for almost every call the police department answers.
“There was a culture within this community for a long time that alcohol was the money for success,” he says. “We are in this position because of this culture, this philosophy. “
During the DDA board meeting on Friday, a strategic plan for a healthier drinking culture was presented. The plan identifies the problem faced by business owners and residents.
This spring, a survey was sent out on the culture of drinking alcohol. About 1,000 responses were recorded. Forty percent of the responses came from downtown. Responses were also broken down by age group. The 65 and over group was the highest at 26 percent. People aged 25 to 34 responded at a rate of 10%, according to plan officials.
The team also conducted 70 individual interviews and organized several listening sessions.
The strategic plan says business owners have expressed concern about disorderly crowds, unsafe conditions for customers and staff, and property damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Citizens, businesses and non-profit organizations are concerned about the image it creates for the city.
However, not everyone agrees that there is a drinking problem.
“We rank 25th out of 83 Michigan communities with a drinking problem,” says Pete Kirkwood, board member for DDA, who also owns a business in town. “We are in the lower third. So yeah, let’s make sure we get the right approach to our drinking culture, but also make sure we don’t start telling the world we’re Daytona Beach or Key West.
The plan also identifies ways to change the culture of drinking alcohol into a more positive one. Several actions are recommended for DDA, TCPD and municipal government. The stages are separated by immediate, short-term and long-term actions.
Here are some immediate steps that can be taken: changes to the liquor licensing process and pedicab licensing; changes to tour bus operations; continue and increase the presence of TCPD in the city center; continue TCPD training on conflict de-escalation; the addition of security cameras in public spaces; the addition of exterior lighting in public streets, alleys and sidewalks in the city center.
Many of the immediate actions could be revisited in short-term plans. The long-term plan would be to explore the feasibility of providing more late-night transportation and affordable and accessible options for out-of-town visitors.