OCEAN CITY – The beach stand game in Ocean City won’t include “monopoly”, but it’s halfway there after a City Council vote on Wednesday.
The council amended the City Code’s Section 39-28, which stated that no sole proprietor of beach stand rental equipment could own more than a third of the total parcels. The new rule states that one beach stand operator can own up to 50 percent of the 70 existing beach parcels that are auctioned off each year.
City Clerk Carol Jacobs said that the amount of bidders on the 70 parcels, which are auctioned off as three-year contracts, “has dropped to only a few bidders on all the stands, so I would ask that you do away with this rule completely.”
Allowing a virtual monopoly in the beach rental equipment business would not be a first for Ocean City as Pepsi is the “chartered drink” of the town and the beach photography or “scoper” franchise went through a similar situation a few years back, but the council seemed reluctant to put another monopoly equation on the town, especially with financial times being what they are.
“What if one guy gets all the stands and has a horrible year and can’t pay the bill, then we are left with it, so a 100-percent monopoly scares me,” said Councilman Joe Hall.
Historically, of the 145 streets in Ocean City, there were 145 stands that were auctioned off, but as the number of groups or proprietors dwindled, the number was cut in half to the existing number of 70 parcels.
Some parcels auction off for as low as $550 while others like 28th to 30th streets went for $42,000 last season.
Jacobs hoped that eliminating the one-third ownership rule would help continue to generate the amount of money that comes in for beach stand operations, which last year reached a little more than $623,000.
Currently, one operator owns a third of the stands, and it’s expected that that operator will benefit immediately from this ruling once the bidding process for the next summer’s stands takes place.
“He’s looking at increasing his business from by at least 20 percent, so I don’t think that not granting the 100 percent is a bad thing,” said Joe Hall
Councilman Jim Hall agreed, but changed his original motion from totally eliminating the rule to scaling it back from 100 percent to 50 percent potential ownership, saying, “I don’t want to do this because it takes out the competitive nature of the business, but unfortunately, we just don’t have the bidders.”
The decision now goes to the desk of City Solicitor Guy Ayres to be rewritten into a city ordinance.