OCEAN CITY – The City Council denied promoters their request to sell beer on the beach during the AVP Crocs Volleyball Tour in June, citing double standards and preaching mutual benefits.
In an unanimous decision, City Council members granted organizer Brett Wolf of Corrigan Sports the ability to charge admission during the event, but thwarted his hopes of generating revenue by sales of alcohol at a beer tent inside a fenced area of the “stadium” during the three-day event scheduled for June on the beach between Dorchester and Somerset Streets.
The council’s reasoning seemed to hinge upon not taking away food and beverage business from Boardwalk shops during the event, which could draw as many as 5,000 spectators, and not sending a mixed message to some of the “dry” events that would be taking place nearby.
“This is during a time of year when we are promoting enjoyment in the town without the need or the use of alcohol,” said Councilman Joe Hall, “and this doesn’t blend well with Beachfest (which will take place the same weekend) or how families enjoy Ocean City, so I don’t envision it being the right thing to do.”
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas agreed with Hall, but cited a nearby Play it Safe event that would be adversely effected by the sale of alcohol on the beach.
“Play it Safe’s whole message is to play without alcohol, and we would be sending a mixed message to those kids if we allowed this,” said Pillas.
Councilman Jim Hall thought that the double standard was a concern, but was more adamant about the reaction of local businesses that would lose revenue by the sale of alcohol.
“If I had a liquor or beer establishment on the Boardwalk adjacent to this, I’d be hot right now,” said Hall. “It would be like selling Cokes in front of the Alaska Stand all weekend because this isn’t just a one-day event.”
With that said, the AVP will be setting up the expansive make-shift stadium with tiered seating, over the course of the week prior to the event, and dozens of large beach mats will be brought in to accommodate the television trucks that will be needed to air the event on ESPN 2 and FoxSportsNet.
Mayor Rick Meehan told Wolf that he would prefer to see the concentration on creating revenue stemming from sponsorships rather than selling alcohol on the beach.
“This is a huge facility that you are going to build, so this isn’t just let’s put up some nets and everyone will show up,” said Meehan, “but the merchants and the people that use the beach in that area are going to pay a bit of a price, so in return I would hope there would be a mutual benefit, and you would look to the Boardwalk merchants as the source of food and beverage.”
Wolf cited that the sale of alcohol would only be inside the fenced-in area for spectators who pay either the $10 general admission or $20 courtside ticket costs but Councilman Doug Cymek and Council President Joe Mitrecic questioned the authenticity of that statement when seeing drawings of the event’s layout, which showed a tent placed outside of the fenced area that was marked “Bud Light tent.”
“I’m not in favor of any food or alcohol sales on the beach, and I’ve been that way for 20 years,” said Mitrecic, “but I understand that an event of this size, you’ll need something to be sold on the beach, but I don’t think it needs to be alcohol.”
Mitrecic, who used to own a Boardwalk pizza shop, mentioned that the first time he ever spoke in front of Mayor and City Council was to contest a volleyball tournament’s request to sell beer on the beach.
“When you are paying the kind of rent that you pay to have a store or restaurant on the Boardwalk, and they are giving it away for cheaper, it hurts business,” said Mitrecic. “I also think that we are going to open up a can of worms here because if we pass this, then everyone is going to find some reason that they need to sell alcohol on the beach during their event.”
Spectators will receive wristbands when they pay for admission and will essentially have an “all-day” pass, allowing them to come in and out of the stadium area and walk up and down the Boardwalk.
Meehan likened spectators walking to get food and beverage to seeing a game at a professional sports venue.
“I would hope that people could walk in and out of the event with a wristband and walk up and down the Boardwalk, get food there and go back and watch the tournament,” said Meehan. “That’s what they would do if they were in a stadium, and that’s really what the Boardwalk is – an expansive resource of food and beverages.”