The Bullpen Social District

a logo that reads The Bullpen surrounded by the words downtown social district in a circle.

About The Bullpen 

The Bullpen is downtown Durham’s social district, which allows people to purchase alcoholic drinks from ABC permittees in a designated cup and walk around outside within a defined area. The Bullpen went into effect on December 1, 2022.

What is a social district? 

In September 2021, the North Carolina General Assembly voted that cities and towns in North Carolina could create their own walkable drinking district with open cups of alcoholic beverages: a social district.  

  • A social district is a defined area in which a person may consume an alcoholic beverage sold by an ABC permittee located within the social district.  
  • A social district may include both indoor and outdoor areas of businesses within a defined area during the days and hours set by the local government.  
  • A social district may include privately owned property, including permittees and non-permittee businesses, and multi-tenant establishments, as well as public streets, crosswalks, or parking areas whether the streets or parking areas are closed to vehicle traffic.  

Downtown Durham’s Social District Boundaries

View as an interactive Google map. 

Days and Hours of Operation 

The Bullpen operates from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. seven days a week. 

Participating Merchants

Window clings will be displayed at each business to indicate their participation in The Bullpen.

A window sticker with the bullpen logo and the words: order here

Business has an ABC permit and will sell beverages to be taken out to the social district.

A window sticker with the bullpen logo and the words: drinks welcome.

Business does not have an ABC permit but WILL ALLOW beverages inside.

A bright red window sticker with the bullpen logo and the words: outside drinks not permitted.

Business will NOT allow outside beverages inside.

Order Here
Alley Twenty Six
Aloft Durham Downtown
Beer Durham
Beyu Caffe
The Blue Note Grill
Brunello Wine Bar
Bull City Burger and Brewery
Bull City Ciderworks
Bullseye Bicycle
Clouds Brewing
COPA Latin Bistro and Bar
Counting House @ 21c Museum Hotel
The Daily Beer Bar
DPAC (select events)
Dram & Draught
Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Durham Food Hall 
Durham Marriott City Center
Durty Bull Brewing Company
Five Star
Fullsteam Brewery
The Glass Jug Beer Lab
Hi-Wire Brewing Company
Honeygirl Meadery
James Joyce Irish Pub
J. Lights Market & Cafe
Killer Queen
Liberty & Plenty Distillery
Lonerider Spirits
LouElla Wine Beer & Beverage
Luna Rotisserie
Mateo Bar de Tapas
Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom
Mellow Mushroom
Mezcalito Grill & Tequila Bar
Moe’s Southwest Grill
Mother and Sons
M Pocha
Ninth Street Bakery
The Oak House
Pie Pushers
The Pinhook
The Pit Durham Event Venue
Plum Southern Kitchen & Bar
Pompieri Pizza
Ponysaurus Brewing
Pour Taproom Durham
PRESS Coffee Crepes & Cocktails
Remedy Room
Rubies on Five Points
The Slush
Spring Rolls
Unscripted Durham Hotel
Urban Axes
The Waiting Room
West End Wine Bar / West End Billiards
The Wine Feed
Drinks Welcome
5 Points Gallery
Alliance Architecture
Arthur Murray Dance Center of Durham
The Artisan Market at 305
Blossom and Bone Florals
Bull City Records
Carolina Soul Records
Carrie Moore Interior Design
Cecy’s Gallery and Studios
Dolly’s Vintage
Downtown Durham, Inc.
The Durham Art Guild
Durham Arts Council
Durham Bottling Co
EUtopia Design
Golden Belt Artist Studios
The He Salon
Kings Avenue Tattoo
LRC Properties
Mettlesome Theater
Miel Bon Bons
Mill & Meadow
MODE Consignment Boutique
Museum of Durham History
Nest Realty
The Parlour
Revel Build Co
Sherlocks Glass & Dispensary
Simon Says Dip This
Spring Rolls
Temple Studio (formerly Arrow)
Through This Lens
Urban Durham Realty
Vert & Vogue
Visitor Info Center – Discover Durham
The ZEN Succulent
Not Permitted
321 Coffee
919 Barbers
Altered Image Hair Designers
City of Durham Buildings
Clarity Piercing
Cloud9 Coiffure
Cocoa Cinnamon
Dogstar Tattoo
Durham County Buildings
Durham County Main Library
Foster Street Coffee
Gavin Christianson Bridal
Gurley’s Pharmacy
Hatch Rockers Immigration
Main Street Pharmacy
Mr. Fries Man
Rock Paper Scissors Salon
Self-Help Credit Union
Three Kings Tattoo
Urban Ministries of Durham

Businesses not listed here are not participating in the social district. It should be assumed that customers can neither order, nor enter with, a to-go drink at the establishment.

Businesses located within the Bullpen can submit their participation preference here to opt-in or opt-out of the district. 

A business can change its selection at any time by notifying DDI at [email protected]

City and County Property, Churches, and Schools 

It shall be unlawful for any person to possess an open container of malt beverage or unfortified wine on any property owned, occupied, or controlled by the City or County of Durham, including parking facilities, unless that property has been designated by the city or county as eligible for the consumption of alcohol under the rules of the social district and applicable state law. Any city or county properties designated as eligible will display signage accordingly.

Rules & Requirements

Downtown Durham’s Social District Rules 

The Bullpen meets the following requirements in accordance with North Carolina law and the City of Durham Ordinance:

  •  Alcoholic beverages may be consumed in the social district from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
  • No outside alcohol is permitted within the district.  
  • All alcoholic beverages must be purchased from ABC permitted establishments located within the district and must be consumed within the district. 
  • All alcoholic beverages must be disposed of before leaving the social district. 
  • Upon leaving an establishment where an alcoholic beverage is purchased, the beverage must be consumed and/or the container discarded before entering a different business that serves alcohol, unless entering a business within the social district that allows outside alcoholic beverages to be brought inside the business. 
  • The Bullpen boundary must be clearly defined with signage posted in conspicuous locations by the city. 
  • Alcohol must be sold in designated containers that meet specific requirements, including:  
  • no glass containers 
  • containers include required wording and social district logo 
  • containers are not larger than 16 oz. 
  • ABC permittees can only sell alcohol on their licensed premises, not elsewhere in the social district. 
  • All North Carolina ABC rules and regulations apply. 

ABC Permittee Requirements 

A permittee located and selling alcoholic beverages within the social district must meet the following requirements:

  • Follow all ABC rules and regulations regarding selling alcoholic drinks. 
  • Sell to-go alcoholic beverages during Bullpen hours of operation only (currently 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.) 
  • Sell and serve to-go alcoholic beverages on its licensed premises only. 
  • Sell to-go alcoholic beverages in a container that meets all the cup requirements (see below).
  • Display a Bullpen window cling at all public entrances denoting participation in the social district. 
  • Inform DDI promptly of any change in participation status. 
  • Report any violations of the social district or ABC rules to [email protected]
  • Complete a quarterly survey so that the managing entity can provide required data to the City of Durham. 
  • Once registered with Downtown Durham, Inc., to participate, the ABC permittee will sign a one-page agreement to these rules above. 

Cup Requirements

The container for all to-go alcoholic beverages must meet all the following requirements:

  • The cup clearly identifies the permittee from which the alcoholic beverage was purchased, and the date and time the beverage was served.  
  • The cup has the Bullpen logo professionally printed on one side. 
  • The cup displays the words: “Drink responsibly. Be 21” in minimum 12-point font. (The Bullpen logo includes these words.) 
  • The cold cup is clear (see through). The hot cup is white. The cups cannot be made of glass. 
  • The cup shall not hold more than 16 fluid ounces (but it may hold less). 
  • Follow all guidelines regarding the use of the Bullpen logo.

Patron Requirements

The possession and consumption of an alcoholic beverage in a social district is subject to all of the following requirements of North Carolina law: 

  • Only alcoholic beverages purchased from an ABC permittee located in the social district may be possessed and consumed. 
  • Alcoholic beverages must: 
    • only be in designated social district containers. 
    • only be possessed and consumed during the days and hours set by the City of Durham 
  • A single patron cannot be sold or delivered alcoholic beverage drinks more than: 
    • two alcoholic beverage drinks at one time of a malt beverage, unfortified wine, fortified wine. 
    • one alcoholic beverage at one time if an alcoholic beverage drink is a mixed beverage and contains spirituous liquor. 
  • A person must dispose of any alcoholic beverage before exiting the social district  

Special Events 

When a special event held pursuant to the issuance of a special event permit, issued by the City of Durham, the terms of the special event permit supersede the provisions of this article within the boundaries of the special event. Any alcoholic beverages purchased within the boundaries of the special event may not be taken outside the special event boundary, even if the alcoholic beverage is to be taken from the boundary of the special event into the boundary of the social district. 

Downtown special events with an alcohol permit and selling and/or serving alcoholic beverages: Those beverages are NOT allowed to leave the special event boundary, even if the event is located within the Bullpen social district. 

It is the decision of the special event permit holder to choose whether to allow social district beverages to enter the special event boundary. That decision can be made when a person applies for the special event permit with the City of Durham.   


What is a social district?

A social district is a defined outdoor area where alcoholic beverages, sold by an establishment licensed for the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption, may be consumed.

When does the social district go into effect?

The downtown Durham social district goes into effect on December 1, 2022.

How will the social district boundaries be marked?

Here is a map of the social district. Signage will be posted at the boundaries. Businesses will indicate on their storefronts with window clings if they are participating or not.

What are the days and hours of operation of the social district?

The Bullpen will operate seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Why does the social district end at 10:00 p.m.?

10 p.m. is consistent for when most special events end, and it captures the end of the dinner crowd before the nightlife activity.

How does a business opt-in to the social district?

Businesses can submit this form to opt-in or opt-out of the social district.

How will participating businesses be marked?

All businesses should display a window cling to indicate whether they have opted in or out of the district.

What cups will be used for the social district? What is the cost to my business to use these cups?

Downtown Durham, Inc. has created a logo for the social district. Businesses are responsible for ordering and managing their own approved cups. Establishments are required to indicate their business name on a sticker or printed directly on the cup. In addition, businesses must write the date and time the alcoholic beverage is served on each cup.

What are the requirements of a social district cup?

How will the City of Durham handle litter associated with the social district?

The City of Durham will install additional trash receptacles along the perimeter of the district, directing patrons to dispose of their cups before exiting. Downtown Durham, Inc.’s Clean & Safe Ambassadors will continue to monitor and keep downtown clean. The City of Durham does not currently recycle plastic cups.

How many alcoholic drinks can I purchase at one time in the social district?

By North Carolina law, a single patron cannot be sold or delivered alcoholic drinks in excess of:

  1. Not more than two alcoholic beverages at one time of a beer or wine.
  2. Not more than one alcoholic beverage at one time if an alcoholic beverage contains liquor.

Can I take an alcoholic beverage in my social district cup home with me?

No. Cups should be disposed of in a proper receptacle prior to exiting the social district. Alcoholic beverages must be sold by an ABC permittee located within the social district. No personal beer, wine or liquor can be brought into the social district. As of now, cups are not to be reused in the social district.

Can I bring my own alcoholic beverage, pour it into a downtown Durham social district cup and walk around in the social district?

No. Only drinks purchased from qualified participating businesses within the social district are allowed. No cans, glass bottles or outside drinks are permitted within the boundaries.

Will additional outdoor seating be provided within the social district?

Patrons can enjoy their beverage in public gathering spaces and downtown plazas, i.e., Five Points, CCB Plaza, Black Wall Street Garden, etc. Many establishments within the social district have outdoor seating options that provide seating for the patrons of their businesses.

Can a mobile pushcart sell alcoholic beverages as a part of the social district?

No. Participating locations must be a fixed permanent establishment with an ABC permit for on-site consumption as outlined in NCGS 18B-904.1(a).

Can a convenience store sell alcoholic beverages to-go as a part of the social district?

No. Participating locations must have an ABC permit for on-site consumption as outlined in NCGS 18B-904.1(a). 

What do I do if I am a retailer within the social district and do NOT want alcohol inside my business?

All businesses located within the social district have the option to opt-out of the district. Window clings stating the status of each business will be provided to all businesses by DDI.

Can I take my alcoholic beverage into a vehicle within the social district?

No. No person shall possess an alcoholic beverage while driving a vehicle, including bicycles and scooters. An open container of any alcoholic beverage is also prohibited in the passenger area of any vehicle per North Carolina law.

What happens if I leave the social district boundaries with an alcoholic beverage?

Individuals who leave the social district in possession of open alcoholic beverages can be criminally charged with the City of Durham ordinance for open container of alcohol on property owned or controlled by the City of Durham and/or applicable state laws regarding the unlawful possession or consumption of spirituous liquor.

How will the social district be enforced?

Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) and local Durham law enforcement have jurisdiction over the social district.

What should I do if I see individuals breaking the rules of the social district? 

You can call the Durham Police Department’s non-emergency number at 919-560-4600. You can also report violations to the Alcohol Law Enforcement Division, Durham County ABC Enforcement and Durham Police Department.

Note: In case of emergency, when an immediate response is needed, call 911 as usual to report the details of the crime you witness.

Additional Questions 

If you have other questions about the Bullpen, please email [email protected]


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