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Each week, WFAE's "Morning Edition" hosts get a rundown of the biggest business and development stories from The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Charlotte’s first social district goes live this weekend

plaza midwood
Layna Hong
Charlotte's first social district will run along Central Avenue in Plaza Midwood.

Charlotte is bringing back penalties for drinking alcohol in public, but you’ll soon be able to drink on the sidewalk. As long as it’s in Plaza Midwood. That’s where the city’s first social district is set to begin this weekend.

For more, we turn now to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.

Marshall Terry: OK, Tony. So is it going to look like Mardi Gras in Plaza Midwood this weekend?

Tony Mecia: Well, that's a good question, Marshall. Probably a lot of people have that on their mind. You know, is this first social district that Charlotte is creating, is it going to lead to, you know, people spilling out into the streets and, you know, big cups of beer? The answer, I think, is going to be no. The intention on this social district, it's been in the works for a while. This is a law that the General Assembly passed about two and a half years ago, allowing these open drinking zones to exist, and it's been done in dozens of cities and towns across North Carolina since then. The reason that it's not going to be a whole bunch of people just drinking in the streets is because the key on this social district is a 16-ounce stainless steel, reusable cup. If you don't have the cup, you can't legally drink on the streets. And they're limiting the supply of cups initially, and it's supposed to roll out starting this weekend with about 12 bars and restaurants. So, it's sort of a limited slow rollout is the way it's being envisioned.

Terry: The Ledger co-hosted a social district preview event Tuesday night in Plaza Midwood, where business owners and residents shared their thoughts about what’s coming. What did you hear?

Mecia: Well, they want to make sure that people know that the intention is not to turn Central Avenue into Bourbon Street. The intention is to get more people, sort of, actively walking through this mile-long social district that goes along Central Avenue, sort of shoots off toward Chantilly and around the central business district. And they're saying that it could just encourage people to get a drink at a bar, maybe go into a retail shop, use the sidewalks more — you can sort of experience Plaza Midwood as more of a destination.

Terry: Switching over now to changes for Mecklenburg County employees. The county is ordering employees to return to the office five days a week. What’s the reasoning here, and how are workers reacting?

Mecia: Yes. County Manager Dena Diorio sent a memo this week to county employees saying that they had been on a back-to-the-office three days a week schedule, but they really need to be back five days a week. She cited reduced levels of customer service, a lack of cohesiveness and collaboration with people working from home, and she said there's also been higher turnover. As far as what workers are thinking, I think there have been a few social media posts suggesting that that's going to decrease morale, but the county manager says that this is something that needs to be done. The county manager did say she knew that some of the employees would be disappointed in that decision and might consider whether they wanted to stay employed with the county. The unemployment rate now is fairly low. Workers do have a lot of choices, but this is something really that all employers are facing in one way or another.

Terry: Let’s end this week on an update to a series of stories The Ledger has had taking a closer look at how Atrium Health operates with its status as a local government entity. You report your coverage has now gotten the eyes of lawmakers. What are they saying?

Mecia: Three key lawmakers on health panels in the North Carolina House and North Carolina Senate told The Ledger and North Carolina Health News this week that they would like to look at potential changes to North Carolina's law on hospital authorities. Atrium is actually a hospital authority under North Carolina law, which gives it advantages such as additional tax breaks, certain antitrust advantages to grow. They're supposed to follow open records and meetings laws. Some critics say they don't fully do that. So, these legislators are saying we might need to take a look at this because this law was created decades ago and might not serve the current conditions because it didn't contemplate that there would be multi-billion dollar, multi-state health care entities like Atrium.

Terry: What is Atrium saying about this latest update?

Mecia: Atrium says it absolutely follows the current law. It says it's very deeply rooted in the communities that it serves in giving free care, making sure that people who can't pay are treated. Atrium also says that communities are better because Atrium is there taking care of people.

Support for WFAE's BizWorthy comes from Sharon View Federal Credit Union, The Original Mattress Factory and our listeners.

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Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.