Downtown Durham Inc

The Bullpen Social District

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

Days and Hours of Operation

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

Participating Merchants

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. 

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.


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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) and local Durham law enforcement have jurisdiction over 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


Tell us what you think about downtown Durham’s social district.

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