Raleigh: Where the Sidewalks End

by | Aug 20, 2015 | Carolina Strategic Analysis, Economic Development, Features, NC Politics | 12 comments

Downtown Raleigh was a ghost town in the 80s and 90s. But over the past decade, a bustling nightlife in the area has developed, with more businesses and more patrons than ever before. For some downtown residents, that’s a double-edged sword as they now have to contend with loud, obnoxious drunks reveling in the wee hours of the morning.

The result? A number of complaints that has resulted in the City Council targeting sidewalk use in the early morning hours. Under the new ordinance which went into effect last Friday (and passed on a 5-3 vote), businesses that offer outdoor seating on sidewalks will have to have their customers either go indoors or go somewhere else after 1 AM.

The rationale is that in addition to the noise, the sidewalks have gotten way too crowded. Frustrated, and possibly inebriated, pedestrians will have to wander off into the street, where they might get hit by cars. (Another ordinance that passed? No left turns at certain intersections during nighttime on the weekend.)

Naturally, this has resulted in an outcry from business owners, who are wondering why after so much energy has been invested into promoting downtown, the City Council is now trying to stifle progress. It’s especially rich considering that municipal governments have been complaining about overreach by the legislature and now they’re essentially giving adults a curfew.

Nobody is really sure if the new ordinances will help, and some argue that it might make matters worse by having two “last call” hours, resulting in even more noise and traffic. The Council plans to revisit the matter after the October elections.

Opponents of the new laws hope that by that time, several Council members will be replaced by folks who are more “pro-growth.” Some business owners are even undertaking voter registration campaigns. Normally, municipal elections elicit a huge yawn from just about everyone, but young people especially. So, don’t be surprised if it’s same-old, same-old in a few months.

But, if there’s any way to get millennials to turn out in these local elections, it’s to restrict the places where they can hang out on the weekends. Perhaps some surprises will be in order after all.


  1. Arthur Jordan

    It simply is NIMBY-ism (Not In My Back Yard) at its worst. If you go to the heart of any metropolitan area there will be bars, lounges, restaurants, taxis, concerts, revelry etc. because that is the function of an urban construct. It was planned to be so. Raleigh has long suffered as the seat of state government and as such has long had a simplistic and honestly dull urban environment (i.e No Fun Zone). However, the influx of new residents and their subsequent additions to the local culture has propelled the city into a wonderful and vibrant new existence. Having been born and raised here (c.1969) I can honestly say that the change is welcome and WAYYYYYY overdue. The status quo is simply obsolete and the people who don’t want to hear the noise from downtown at night should simply move to the vast and unending realm of wooded, cul-de-sac, planned unit developments where the very size of your mailbox is regulated. It’s safe, quiet, and peaceful there. But please, leave downtown alone. It needs to have these growing pains in order to become a truly first rate place that every magazine seems to tout but yet deliver.

  2. Smarterthanyou

    Irregardless isn’t a word

  3. Alkesh Shah

    Just for the record only one complaint had been logged. This is the Stephenson and Crowder show. We need to get them out of office.

  4. Vaction Jason

    First of all, Boo. Secondly, irregardless is not a word. Thirdly, the prosperity of the city depends on new talent in the tech industry coming to Raleigh and young graduates love the nightlife and got to boogie. So perhaps you should lighten up a bit.

  5. Apache

    These are public sidewalks we’re talking about, nothing on private property. This was a reasonable compromise that is being tested for 3 months. There is a plethora of places downtown where people can eat and drink outside that doesn’t use the public right of way. I think Raleigh has a lot of other issues that are a lot more important than cutting one hour a day from the drinking on the side walks.

    • Vacation Jason

      You sound like you haven’t gotten laid ever.

  6. Phoenix

    But the City of Raleigh will have absolutely no problem when the folks from the Blue Grass Festival or Brewgaloo take over the streets and sidewalks and sell beer – quite a double standard when the folks that pay rent to do business every day are treated worse than those that come in from out of town

  7. Al

    The problem is, people are moving downtown, where they know all of these bars and restaurants are, then complaining about the noise and traffic. It’s no different than moving near an airport and complaining about planes.

  8. Nortley

    Sidewalks: Isn’t that the state legislature’s job?

    • Eilene

      Isn’t EVERYTHING the state legislators’ job? Public utilities, airports, town councils, school boards, pretty soon

    • Dave

      You really sound uneducated about the matter all together….if ocean currents were the topic you would be wanting to talk about mountains….ABC permitting has nothing to do with this issue….if people do not like the noise of downtown in any city why move there in the first place. Your comments are what’s disgusting to be frank!

  9. alexander

    This doesn’t allow them to block off public sidewalks does it?

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