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5 Things to Know: Plaza Midwood Social District Launches

...and four more stories from Feb. 25-March 2, 2024

A designated metal Plaza Midwood Social District cup
A designated Plaza Midwood Social District cup. (Photo courtesy of Plaza Midwood Social District)

Plaza Midwood Social District Launches

The Plaza Midwood Social District (PMSD), the city’s long-awaited first social district, kicks off this weekend, allowing people to leave participating bars and restaurants within the borders of the social district with open containers of alcohol between 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Guests can enter other participating bars or restaurants with their drink as long as it is in a designated PMSD cup. 

Beginning Friday, social district beverages are allowed in businesses displaying a green social district sticker; social district beverages are not allowed inside businesses that do not have a social district sticker or are displaying a red social district sticker; and to-go alcoholic beverages can be purchased at establishments displaying a purple social district sticker, but outside beverages are not allowed in those establishments.

The 16-ounce stainless steel cup can be purchased for $8 from any participating establishment. Patrons can take the empty cups home for future use or return them if undecorated and in good use to a participating establishment for a discount or cash.

The cup can only be filled with an alcoholic beverage by a trained server at a participating ABC-permitted establishment, as per state and local laws. 

Moo and Brew, Petra’s, Whiskey Warehouse, Giddy Goat Coffee, Legion Brewing, Dish, The Pizza Peel, and Resident Culture Brewing Co. will participate in the launch of PMSD, while others have opted out. 

Some of the businesses not participating in the social district include Snug Harbor, Thomas Street Tavern, Workman’s Friend, The Diamond, Burial Beer, Supperland, The Thirsty Beaver, and Common Market.

Hate Speech Interrupts Matthews Meeting in Zoom Bombing

The Matthews Board of Commissioners will hold a special meeting on March 5 to discuss potential changes to its virtual public forum policy after unknown speakers took over the forum at Monday night’s meeting to express hateful and bigoted comments about Jewish people, the LGBTQ community and diversity initiatives. 

It is believed that the meeting was the subject of a “Zoom bombing,” in which speakers sign up to speak virtually at public meetings around the country to champion hate speech. 

“I regret the extremely unfortunate incident that interrupted the meeting last evening and I extend my apologies to anyone who was subjected to it including Town staff and meeting attendees,” said Mayor John Higdon, who was traveling on business and could not attend the meeting, in a release on Tuesday. 

“While I support the protection of free speech under the First amendment, I also condemn the hateful and offensive words used. They are completely at odds with the welcoming, inclusive community we wish to have in Matthews.” 

Mayor Pro Tem Gina Hoover added, “What we heard was disgusting and my heart broke for those who had to sit and listen to it. I would have loved to shut it down, but we have to stand by the Constitution and allow them their right to speak. I sincerely apologize to anyone who was affected by this deeply upsetting event.” 

Charlotte City Council discontinued its COVID-era policy of allowing public forum speakers to address council virtually in 2021.

Republican Candidates in Legal Battle Over Who’s Less Woke

Jaime Daniell, Republican candidate for NC Senate District 42, filed a lawsuit this week against Republican primary opponent Stacie McGinn, claiming $250,000 in damages for alleged defamation after McGinn implied that Daniell embraces diversity in the workforce. 

In her campaign materials, McGinn had pointed out that Daniell’s company, Performance Staffing Solutions, had published a blog post to its website in the past titled, “The Top Ways You Can Improve Workplace Diversity,” stating this showed that Daniell supported diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, known as DEI and used as the Republican Party’s latest bogeyman.  

Learn more: A Guide to Primary Elections in Mecklenburg County and Beyond

In response, Daniell sued McGinn for “knowingly spreading false, misleading and defamatory statements and accusations with the intent to harm Daniell’s goodwill and business reputation.” 

Daniell also countered McGinn’s statements by pointing out that, 14 years ago, McGinn accepted an award on behalf of Bank of America’s legal department for its diversity initiatives. McGinn stated during her acceptance speech then that “diversity and inclusion should be at the forefront of any business’s values.” 

In a statement on Feb. 28, McGinn stood by her comments from 14 years ago but claimed that Daniell was “attacking—and misquoting—me as an advocate for ‘DEI.’”

Sheriff Responds to Reports of Unsafe Jail

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden responded this week to a WBTV report published on Feb. 26 that found his jail in Uptown had failed to meet the state standard for safety checks in every inspection the state had conducted in the past two years. 

In her investigation, WBTV’s Naomi Kowles reviewed records showing that inspectors in December 2021 and February 2022 found hundreds of missed safety checks over 18 days of logs.

The jail has come under fire for having been the site of nine inmate deaths within two years. An inmate stated that it would take days to get a response to urgent medical requests, a concern echoed in a lawsuit filed over a 2022 inmate death. 

The Pretrial Integrity Act will allow judges to make decisions regarding bail rather than magistrates.
The Mecklenburg County Detention Center in Uptown. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

In a release on Feb. 27, McFadden claimed that his department found that “the State Inspectors Compliance Reports were not accurate in their deficiencies” due to inconsistencies in the criteria used by state inspectors to define a pod tour or “round.”

“I have urged the state inspectors to acknowledge these discrepancies and to provide clarity on their inspection processes, but they have thus far declined to do so,” McFadden stated. “Moving forward, it is my hope and expectation that state inspectors will consider the operational realities of MCDCC so that accurate reporting can be provided.”

In 2022, we reported on why some of McFadden’s former staff were claiming that he had made jails less safe for both guards and folks incarcerated at the Uptown jail.

Construction Begins to Open Independence Bus Lanes

According to a Friday press release from the NC Department of Transportation (NC DOT), the empty bus lanes on Independence Boulevard will be open for use soon, due to a $1.37-million contract that NCDOT awarded to Albemarle contractor NJR Group Inc., in December 2023.

The city of Charlotte is funding the project, with NCDOT providing project oversight.

The contractor plans to start Monday and carry out construction for 75 consecutive calendar days to complete the required improvements. The majority of the work will take place in the bus lanes behind existing barrier walls, according to the release.

When the city built the Hawthorne Lane bridge several years ago, the structure’s center pier was relocated approximately 7 feet into the eastbound bus lane to maximize space under the bridge for future express lanes and light rail in the area.

NCDOT has been working with Charlotte Area Transit System to assess what modifications are needed to make the bus lanes usable, determining that the existing eastbound bus-lane opening must be relocated closer to the interchange with the John Belk/Brookshire Freeway.

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