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Grand Rapids to introduce ‘social zones’ for businesses, bars, and restaurants

Posted at 10:39 AM, May 22, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As a way to assist business recovery in the city, the Grand Rapids City Commission on Thursday unanimously approved an initiative called “social zones” that will run June 1 to November 30, 2020.

The move is aimed at assisting businesses, especially bars, coffee shops, and restaurants, in dealing with the requirements of social distancing once they resume dine-in service. Such businesses will be required to reduce the number of customers they can have in their normal seating spaces, both indoors and outdoors.

Social zones will be granted through the city’s special event approval process and can be designated on public or private property, streets, and sidewalks. Once granted use of a social zone, the business will be responsible for keeping open access to businesses and emergency crews, maintain any furniture or equipment, deal with trash and litter, enforce no-smoking laws, follow health department and state guidelines and executive orders, among other things.

“Restaurants and bars can start thinking about their desired amount of outdoor seating and where that seating may be placed and talk to their neighbors about their ideas,” said Lou Canfield, the city’s acting assistant director of design, development and community engagement, in a release.

The creation of social zones was a part of the city commission’s budget process, which was finalized with budget approval Thursday. The budget of $521 million is $22 million less than the previous year and accounts for possible reductions of revenue from COVID-19.