First clues emerge in Traverse City’s “healthier consumer culture” project
Does too much of Traverse City’s economy and social experience revolve around alcohol? That’s a question the City of Traverse City, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), and the Traverse City Police Department (TCPD) hope to answer as part of their Healthier Drinking Culture project. The findings could shape the next chapter in Traverse City’s tourism and lifestyle economy, with everything from law enforcement tactics to liquor license approvals potentially at stake. And The teleprinter uncovered some early clues as to where stakeholders think the city should be heading.
According to official site, the goal of the process is to create a strategic plan that “will identify the current state and desired vision for Traverse City’s drinking culture and include immediate, short-term and long-term recommendations to achieve this vision ”. The project is funded by a 2020 grant from the Northern Michigan Regional Entity (NMRE).
Spearheading the project are Elise Crafts of Statecraft, a local strategic planning firm; and Megan Motil of Parallel Solutions, a Traverse City company specializing in community engagement and organizational development. The project team also includes representatives from municipal government (City Manager Marty Colburn and City Clerk Benjamin Marentette), DDA (CEO Jean Derenzy and Director of Community Development Katy McCain) and TCPD (Chief Jeffrey O ‘ Brien and Downtown Community Police Officer Jonathan Culver).
Motil says the first phase was to determine how local residents, businesses and other stakeholders define a “healthy consumer culture” – and where Traverse City might be lagging behind.
For several months, Motil has engaged with local stakeholders to get their views on Traverse City’s drinking culture. It started in the winter with an online public survey as well as one-on-one conversations between Motil and downtown liquor licensees, business owners, employees and healthcare professionals. local.
This month, the project launched a series of focus groups aimed at garnering feedback from broader groups – including local residents, wine and beer tour operators, downtown customers, and more. Three focus groups remain on the agenda – a June 21 session for “non-alcoholic people”, a June 22 session for residents of city neighborhoods and a June 24 session for restaurant workers. , local bars and tasting rooms – after which the project team will work to “assess the information gathered and identify themes, values, opportunities, needs, resources and gaps”. More details – including registration links for Zoom-based focus group sessions – can be found here. Locals can also submit comments directly to the project team through the Contact form.
So far, Motil says some of the words and phrases local stakeholders have used to describe their ideal consumer culture include “happy; celebration; respectful of others; balancing fun and good times with responsibility; and that people know their limits.
“We’ve heard people use words like ‘sophisticated’ or ‘high’ to describe culture,” Motil continues. “We’ve also heard the word ‘responsibility’ a lot, both for businesses and individuals. And there is also a fairly important theme related to the availability and accessibility of transport choices. Another great thing that keeps coming is to find ways to provide abundant spaces and outdoor recreation experiences. [in town] which do not contain alcohol. And we also hear a lot about how healthy alcohol consumption is often associated with food, so we focus on this connection between food and alcohol rather than just focusing on alcohol consumption. herself.
City Commissioner Roger Putman said he participated in the focus groups and was “excited to see the final report.” Putman, along with fellow city commissioner Brian McGillivary, has criticized Traverse City’s drinking culture in the past: in 2019, the two commissioners even proposed a six-month moratorium on new liquor licenses. This moratorium was rejected by the entire commission, but Putman says he and McGillivary continued to vote against the new liquor licenses – a strategy he describes as “a protest vote to reinforce our opinion that There comes a time when you have to say ‘Enough is enough.’
Putman hopes the Healthier Drinking Culture initiative will provide a framework for how liquor licensees can best be held accountable for overly intoxicated customers. He also believes the project could help Traverse City strike a better balance with its culture of drinking, so that it remains a welcoming place to visit or reside “for families and people who don’t soak up. maybe not, but want to come downtown ”.
Motil notes that this particular desire – not only to have more experiences in Traverse City that don’t involve alcohol, but also “to have no social shame in choosing not to drink” – has been a refrain. current in the first few sessions.
Troy Daily, owner of Kayak, Bike & Brew (KBB), says he’s made a concerted effort with his business over the years to promote healthier drinking behavior. His tours visit three local breweries, and patrons are encouraged to drink in moderation (Daily says one beer per customer per brewery is average consumption) and pair each beer with food. Yet while Daily thinks they have a good handle on things at KBB, they support the General Alcohol Culture initiative and hope that it will provide local alcohol-related businesses with advice on the issues. .
“If there is a problem that needs to be resolved, then there must be an equal goal in mind so that all businesses understand what that problem is and are all on the same page. to solve this problem, ”Daily says.
Motil confirms that the companies will be reintroduced once the project team compiles a first draft of the plan. All local stakeholders will have the opportunity to review this draft and provide feedback, with the final draft likely to be presented to DDA and the city by the end of September. While restaurants, bars and other businesses will ideally find the plan informative, Motil notes that the main objective of the strategic plan is to guide the future tactics of the three host entities.
“So for TCPD these tactics or strategies are going to focus on the role they play in public safety, law enforcement, community policing,” Motil said. “For the DDA, its role in the community is to support downtown businesses and the experiences of people who come to the downtown area, whether in events, marketing or supporting business owners. companies or employees. The tactics they might employ will relate to those roles. And then the city is responsible for land use planning, zoning, and licensing, so the things that could be addressed for them in this plan will focus on those activities.