Earlier this month, it appeared downtown Ocean City had some serious problems to address on Saturday nights. After a couple quiet weekends, it seems matters are under control.
The recent calm could be a result of the underage club owners on Worcester St. implementing a stricter dress code policy and prohibiting 19- and 20-year-olds from the club on Saturdays. It could also be due to the calendar, as school celebrations slow with the advent of the season and the transition to more families. It’s more than likely a combination of both.
Right or wrong, H2O, the town’s only underage nightclub along with its sister club H2O2, have been partially blamed for the riot on the Boardwalk over Memorial Day weekend and another serious brawl a couple weeks later. Word of late was a petition was being circulated among downtown merchants with the plan to ask the Mayor and Council to shutter the town’s underage club on Worcester Street.
After lots of phone calls and investigation, staff writer Bryan Russo learned the petition does not actually exist, although he did confirm there was a groundswell of concern the club is responsible for the numerous arrests and fights that have taken place over the last month or so.
Even if it were reality, the petition would have likely been an exercise in futility. Years ago, when there were a few underage clubs in town, lawmakers essentially legislated some of them out of business. Today, only the Worcester Street club remains. However, there are some who have a lot of concerns, specifically what goes on inside in the club and the impact it has on neighboring properties, specifically the Boardwalk.
It’s natural when things are awry to seek a culprit, and the downtown club scene is an obvious choice. It’s unknown how much of a part the clubs played in the recent brawls and arrests. Surely, some of the young folks arrested were inside the clubs at some point. The clubs may or may not be the reason these troubled 19- and 20-years-olds came to town from Salisbury and other points. However, that does not mean the clubs can fairly be held responsible for what their customers do outside of their establishments, even if it was a result of words exchanged between certain men or women inside. The same goes for alcohol-serving establishments.
Club ownership and management deserve credit for reacting to the concerns and being willing to recognize the gravity of the situation. Soon after the latest fights took place outside the club and on the Boardwalk, ownership decided to ban 19- and 20-year-olds on Saturdays because that was the age of most of the folks arrested. That likely hurt the club’s bottom line, but the businessmen wanted to be cooperative and realized police reports indicated the tension behind the brawls may have started with verbal spats inside their establishment.
That’s debatable, and it will likely never be known, but if police and club owners are willing to work together, and there’s no indication that’s not the case, the situation can be addressed and improved. The last couple weekends have shown that’s the case and confirmed the need for continued cooperation. It’s beneficial to all involved.