TRAVERSE CITY — After more than 1,000 survey responses, dozens of interviews and seven listening sessions, the Healthier Drinking Culture strategic plan is ready for its first look.

The draft plan went online late Monday afternoon at, along with findings from the months-long engagement process. It lays out the existing challenges and strengths, plus a host of recommendations to steer Traverse City’s drinking culture toward one that’s safe and welcoming, as project leaders put it.

Binge drinking and overconsumption in the downtown core are part of a drinking culture problem that have residents, business owners and others concerned about the city’s character and reputation, according to the draft report. Current challenges include bad behavior ranging from public urination to theft to fighting in alleys and sidewalks. The problem goes beyond the downtown, with city police Chief Jeff O’Brien telling researchers that nearly every call city police handle has alcohol as an underlying factor.

Current strengths include training for servers, a police presence downtown, events that aren’t centered around alcohol and others that make alcohol part of the experience instead of the point.

The city has 225 liquor licenses at 119 locations, with many having more than one license type, according to the draft report.

Recommendations range from updating city ordinances to create “objective and clear criteria” for the desired number, location and type of liquor licenses, to providing and promoting transportation options from downtown to outlying areas, to installing outdoor lighting and cameras in the city’s downtown.

Those are just a few of the findings and suggestions in the 19-page draft. The joint effort between the city Downtown Development Authority, police department and city government stems from a longstanding debate over bad behavior by intoxicated people, particularly in the 100 block of South Union Street.

Now the public can review them and offer their feedback, and DDA board members will hear about the findings at their meeting Friday, their agenda shows.

That’s just a start: project leaders will host two open houses at the Governmental Center on Sept. 27, one from noon to 1 p.m. and another from 4-7 p.m., with city commissioners set to hear about the report at their meeting that night, according to a DDA release.

The DDA board will consider approving a final plan at their Oct. 15, with city commissioners set to do the same Oct. 18, according to the release.


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