From Social Distancing to Social Districting…
It was just a couple weeks ago that the President announced the end of the pandemic. Granted, we’ve been inching back to normalcy for some time now, but it’s still nice to be given carte biden to shed the cloak of covid, once and for all.
Notable in the comeback is the industry that suffered more than most… bars and restaurants. It’s been a tough couple years. But now, taking another step… or stumble, on the way back, Downtown Negaunee is responding to relaxed state regulations with a new Social District. What’s a Social District? It’s a designated area where you can carry and consume alcohol, off-site. Salute!
Under the new rules, you can now legally leave the establishment where you bought your drink and enjoy it anywhere, almost, in the designated area. There are a lot of fine-print rules that are part of the deal, but that’s the gist. For all the details, you can find a pretty thorough explanation from Negaunee City Manager Nate Heffron, in an informational video produced by Irontown Talk, and available at their Facebook page.
The social district concept has been around awhile, just not in Michigan. But the explosion of outdoor service on-site at bars and restaurants, due in part to the pandemic, helped make this more of a priority with the state’s Liquor Control Commission. Chalk one up in the plus column for a bureaucratic agency that usually seems to make rules… just to have rules.
The social district designation is on the table here in Marquette too. And why not? It seems like a natural for a couple of our spirited streets.
According to DDA Director Tara Laase-McKinney, “Social districts are something we’re exploring for Downtown Marquette. We’ve been researching other communities in Michigan who have adopted social districts, and finding out what works well, and if there are issues they’ve run into.”
Understanding that these types of things can change the character of a business district, the DDA intends on involving the community in the process. “We plan on having some listening sessions and opportunities for feedback from the downtown business community and the public to get their feelings on this as well,” says Laase-McKinney.
Regardless of where you think the consumption of alcohol should fall in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it’s a big part of many outings and social gatherings, particularly it seems, here in the Upper Peninsula. Allowing it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re encouraging it, but if it’s something law-abiding adults want to do, let ‘em do it.
The official opening of the new Social District in Negaunee is slated for tomorrow (Saturday) at 5pm.
A new beginning at WZMQ-19
Downtown visitors may have noticed the work being done at the new studios of WZMQ-19. The area’s CBS affiliate is poised to introduce their local brick & mortar presence with a new facility in the former Kildaire Irish Pub building.
According to company Executive Vice President Brian Trauring, there is still some office space remodeling to finish up, but the TV part of the operation is ready to go. “We are in rehearsals now for our live & local news from the U.P. We plan to be on air on Monday from the Washington Street studios.”
Of course, the building is just the shell of the operation, more important to them than us. The big question is… who are we going to see?
Regular contributors will include some familiar names and faces, not the least of whom is Karl Bohnak. Last seen leaving TV6 after a disagreement over that station’s vaccination policy, Bohnak will return to the airwaves with regular segments straight out of his wheelhouse. “I will be contributing some stories about local history and weather, both past and future,” said Karl.
FYI… WZMQ-19, a property of Lilly Broadcasting, encourages but does not mandate vaccinations.
Joining Bohnak with regularly scheduled segments will be another former TV6er, Megan O’Connor, and local radio guy Jim Koski.
O’Connor, who will keep her full-time gig at the Lake Superior Community Partnership, will undoubtedly use her connections there to help inform her segment about community happenings called, “What’s UP with Megan.”
Koski, well-known for his years at WMQT, as well as his history hikes around town, plans to share his “unique take on life in the UP, both generally and in dealing with specific events and happenings.” With a career’s worth of broadcasting experience and intimate knowledge of the area, we wouldn’t expect him to ever be at a loss for words.
And finally, who will be holding down the news desk? None other than former TV6 anchor Sarah Blakely. Blakely, who left WLUC at about the same time and presumably for the same reason as Bohnak, should provide some instant credibility to a station determined to elbow its way into a crowded and competitive arena.
For being one of the smallest markets in the country, it’s almost unheard of that viewers have their choice between no fewer than five local newscasts. Five! At some point, one might think… something’s got to give. Are there actually enough ad dollars here to support that much inventory?
Other than the new guys at WZMQ, a quick run through the dial finds WJMN, the former CBS affiliate, working to find their way as an independent. They’ve taken steps to double-down on their local coverage, but at the same time they’ve lost some key people. And though they’ve been here for quite a while now and have established a reputation for quality work, the changes in the central U.P. broadcasting scene won’t make things any easier.
The local ABC station, ABC10, seems to maintain largely due to having that network affiliation. Their newscast ad breaks are a little heavy with promos and psa’s, which don’t add much to the bottom line. But they’re still doing it, and they’ve been doing it for a while. Remember, they started up in the Keweenaw before relocating to Marquette more than twenty years ago, so it appears they know what it takes to keep the lights on and the cameras rolling.
Which brings us to the perennial power, TV6, and their sister station, Fox UP. Though they’re still the dominant force in the market, WZMQ probably couldn’t have picked a better time to take them on. Viewers likely haven’t yet developed the attachments to TV6’s on-air newcomers that they had to departed long-timers Bohnak and Steve Asplund. It’s an uphill climb, but with some familiar faces in the lineup, and the visibility that comes with a downtown location, there’s sure to be interest in what WZMQ puts on the small screen.
Though competition is supposed to make you better, it also creates winners and losers. From a purely TV viewer’s standpoint… this will be fun to watch.
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