Get Social in Downtown Alpena!

Imagine this: you’re strolling in downtown Alpena, enjoying the views of Lake Huron and vibrant public murals and you’re sipping a Rockport Red from Thunder Bay Winery! 

That’s right – those of age can now enjoy an adult beverage while walking through public parks and listening to live music in the Social District of downtown Alpena. Social Districts were created by Michigan legislation during the pandemic as a way for municipalities to explore outdoor opportunities for food and beverage consumption. 

Guests enjoy the Alpena Social District with the social district cups

“For us, creating the Social District in Downtown Alpena was a way to support our hospitality businesses and create another draw to our district, allowing patrons to grab a drink, stroll through the downtown, and enjoy all there is to offer,” says Anne Gentry, Director of the Alpena Downtown Development Authority. “We currently have eight businesses downtown who have a Social District permit, and one more that will be opening in the next month (Presque Isle Farm).”

One of those businesses is Red Brick Tap and Barrel, which was named Outstanding Business of the Year by the Alpena Chamber of Commerce. They jumped early into the license process and were able to serve Social District beverages in late July of 2021. Now, because of the success of the District, they’ve purchased an old city park, and created the River Street Vault by adding two food trucks (one being their own – 808 Bowlz) and a walk-up outdoor bar serving exclusively Social District beverages. Now, you can enjoy live music every Friday evening, and if visiting in September, their anniversary party! Chef Kevin Peterson recommends grabbing a local canned cocktail called the Mulligan from Michigan’s Gypsy Vodka while at the River Street Vault. 

Thunder Bay Winery also saw success due to the creation of the Social District, which had to make minimal changes in just adding a licensed to-go container after receiving their Social District permit, which was “very easy and quick” to go through. Now, they’ve seen increased glass sales in the Summer and during the Holiday Parade in November! 

The Social District is now expanding its borders to include the full Alpena Marina so boaters are able to enjoy downtown Alpena to its fullest. “Our organization is all about walkable, pedestrian-friendly spaces where people can gather and enjoy the ambiance of downtown, and the Social District allows people to do that while supporting our local restaurants and bars.” adds Gentry. 

For visitors, here are few important rules to enjoy the Alpena Social District:

  1. Beverages must be purchased from a licensed Social District business, served in an Alpena Social District cup 
  2. Drinks can be enjoyed on the sidewalks of the district, in the parks, and at the business where it was purchased.  
  3. Keep Alpena clean and recycle your cup! 
  4. Please drink responsibly! 

Curious about getting social in downtown Alpena? See all participating businesses and an events calendar for live music performances at

Claire Butler is the Content Strategy Specialist for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at [email protected].

Further Reading: