New owners plan to reopen Lit Hookah Lounge, 2510 S. Alpine Road, Rockford with new BYOB rules for hookah lounges in place in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — City Council members on Monday approved plans for a pilot program for a downtown social district and a change that allows patrons to bring their own booze into authorized hookah lounges.

Both matters had been heavily debated at previous City Council meetings. On Monday, they were voted on without any additional discussion.

The council voted 12-2 to approve the social district, which allows you to stroll between downtown businesses with an alcoholic drink in a designated and branded open container. Aldermen Frank Beach and Gina Meeks voted against.

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The district would operate on a pilot program until Oct. 31, 2024, unless extended by the council if its deemed successful.

The proposed boundaries of the Downtown Social District covers businesses on both sides of the Rock River. (Image via city survey)

The two measures were grouped together as a Part A and Part B on the agenda.

Aldermen voted 10-4 to allow patrons to bring their own alcohol into authorized hookah lounges. Lounges would not be allowed to sell alcohol.  Aldermen Chad Tuneberg, Kevin Frost, Bill Rose and Frank Beach voted against the measure.

Opponents in past meetings raised questions about setting precedent for other businesses to request BYOB rules.

New ownership of the city’s lone hookah establishment on South Alpine Road had requested the change, which it said is necessary for a successful business model. Owners noted that BYOB rules exist in communities such as Chicago and some of its suburbs.

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The social district allows any bar, restaurant or other business within the boundaries to register to opt in. Those choose not to participate would be provided stickers to notify patrons they cannot bring alcohol in.

The hours for the social district would be 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Proponents for the social district hope it helps spur a more lively and active downtown scene. Opponents worried it could create future issues involving alcohol.

This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at or follow him on X at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

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