Manteo moving quickly to create ‘social district’

By on March 22, 2023

The B-1 Village Business District (in blue) would likely correspond very closely to a newly created “social district.”

Plan could be in place by April 7 First Friday event

With the April 7 First Friday event as a target date, Manteo officials are moving quickly toward the establishment of a downtown “social district” where alcoholic beverages in designated containers are permitted on the street.

During a March 15 workshop meeting of the Manteo Board of Commissioners, Town Manager Melissa Dickerson provided a presentation that outlined a series of next steps needed in the coming days in order to create the district.

Those steps include town staff talking to the merchants within the proposed social district to gauge their interest in the idea. Town Attorney Ben Gallop would draft an ordinance to create the social district. That ordinance could be ready to be considered by the town commissioners at their April 5 meeting. If it passes, that would be filed on April 6 with the North Carolina ABC with the town distributing “required materials” to merchants inside the new district on April 6 and 7.

During her presentation, Dickerson noted that on March 9, the town’s Mainstreet Advisory Board recommended a social district using the existing boundary of the B-1 Village Business District.

In an email to the Voice, Dickerson confirmed that the district “will be very similar to the B-1 Village Business,” but added that “We expect that Festival Park will need to be excluded since that is state property and they already have a way of managing alcohol sales during events.”

Pointing out that more than 30 North Carolina communities have created such social districts, Dickerson added that the dominant view is that “social districts are considered another tool in the toolkit that enhance downtowns.”

The March 15 commissioners meeting took place just one month after Garret Cameron, the owner of the NouVines wine bar gave a presentation to the Manteo Commissioners advocating for the creation of a social district and putting the idea on the front burner.

“Virtually every district reports an increase in both taxes and merchant revenue,” he said at the time, touting the economic benefits of such a district.

As Dickerson and others have pointed out, Manteo does have an ordinance that allows the consumption of alcoholic beverages on the street if they are inside a cup. But state law has superseded that regulation and “the ordinance has not kept up the with law,” she noted at the March 15 meeting. “In order to do what we do now, we need to adopt a social district.”

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  • Glenn

    Cool! Great initiative…hope it pans out. We’ve been to similar “districts” in other towns & they’re a lot of fun!

    Wednesday, Mar 22 @ 5:16 pm
  • surf123

    One can home that the town ramps up drunk driving enforcement. There are only a few ways out of downtown so plan on sitting there and picking them off. If I needed to consume alcholhol while walking around Manteo my next stop would be going to AA.

    Wednesday, Mar 22 @ 6:05 pm
  • Church Lady

    Well isn’t that special!

    Wednesday, Mar 22 @ 6:19 pm
  • MB

    With the new law does this mean you can no longer consume alcohol on the beaches unless they are designated social districts I believe the state controls the Mandarin high watermark and controls these bitches

    Wednesday, Mar 22 @ 9:03 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    If it happens, this ordinance has no impact outside of downtown Manteo.

    Wednesday, Mar 22 @ 9:12 pm
  • Jeff Walker


    If you’ve been downtown lately and seen the generic tourist trap hell it’s been turned into you’d definitely want a stiff drink or three.

    Thursday, Mar 23 @ 2:48 am
  • Currituck

    You do not need a program to know who the winners and losers are if this happens.
    Oddly enough one of the winners is a town commissioner. I’m shocked, said no one.

    Thursday, Mar 23 @ 5:50 am
  • Randolph

    Is the primary driver/sustainability of the business model here to be supported by patronage from the local populace year-round or the idea is to entice tourists over from the beaches during the high season? Cause if the justification is an “increase in both taxes and merchant revenue,” then from whose pockets are we talking/taking? I only ask as the idea of attracting the tourism dollars over from the thin strip of sand has been a question that has been wrestled with in Manteo since the first out-of-towners started ferrying over to the barrier islands – and has been answered with varying degrees of success (The Christmas Shop, Elizabethan Gardens, Duke of Dare, Festival Park, etc.).

    Thursday, Mar 23 @ 9:29 am
  • Jay

    Looks like the McMansions built for the Pirates Cove development are designated Historic Residential District. I wonder what makes this section of Pirates Coves Historic?

    Thursday, Mar 23 @ 10:17 am
  • Charles

    Great news !! Looking forward to the April event.

    @surf – it is highly plausible to have a beverage or two without going to AA, and having a DD in place is an awesome and responsible way to deal with the driving, but appreciate the check point heads up.

    Friday, Mar 24 @ 10:39 am