SNOW HILL — A popular Ocean City bar had its request for a disc jockey denied Wednesday over fears it may negatively impact residential neighbors.
Fish Tales, which was nominated this year by the Restaurant Association of Maryland (RAM) in its “Favorite Bar” category, had its request for an expansion of entertainment turned down by the Board of License Commissioners (BLC), due to a large amount of protest by the residents neighboring the establishment.
“We’re just trying to adjust to the competition,” said Fish Tales owner Shawn Harman.
Mark Cropper, the attorney representing Harman in front of the BLC, explained that he was able to find 14 similar locations in Ocean City allowed to have either a DJ, live entertainment, or both, including Harborside Bar and Grill, one of Fish Tales’ competitors for the RAM “Favorite Bar” award. Currently, Fish Tales is only permitted to play house music through its speaker system.
Before finishing his case, Harman made sure to point out that his company “intends to be responsible” if the request for a disc jockey was approved.
However, while many similar operations in Ocean City are allowed more extensive entertainment options than Fish Tales, several town residents in attendance at Wednesday’s BLC meeting argued that there were extenuating circumstances involved as to why the tavern should not be allowed a disc jockey, mainly, the proximity of a residential neighborhood.
“It’s a very desirable neighborhood,” asserted resident Joe O’Hara, “and we’d like to keep it that way.”
O’Hara claimed that adding a disc jockey to Fish Tales from noon until 2 a.m. could bring the decibel level coming from the bar into the 105-140 range.
“That’s above a chainsaw and a motorcycle,” said O’Hara.
O’Hara went on to say that such levels might be acceptable for establishments in commercial areas but, to the best of his knowledge, no other bar in the town was as close to a residential area as Fish Tales was.
Carmelo Caminiti, another long-time resident, added his voice to the argument, saying that he opposed a disc jockey at Fish Tales “vividly.”
A third neighbor of the tavern, Alfred Harrison, made sure to go on record that he had no real issues with the bar in its current format.
“He [Harman] is running a great operation,” said Harrison.
However, Harrison argued that the addition of a disc jockey could spiral out of control.
“I don’t think there’s any way Mr. Harman would be able to keep that music in,” he asserted, pointing out that the speakers outside of Fish Tales especially would carry the sound to the nearby residential area due to a lack of buffering walls.
“We do try and be good neighbors with everyone around us,” said Harman, though he still maintained that a disc jockey would not be the disruption it was painted to look like.
BLC President William Esham informed Harman that he understood the establishment’s desire to match its competition, but he also stated that the board’s first duty was to residents.
“Our job is to protect the public and their interests,” said Esham.
Esham questioned the necessity of Harman’s request as did some of Fish Tale’s neighbors, who cited that the bar had been successful enough to earn a RAM “Favorite Tavern” nomination even without a DJ or live entertainment.
The BLC voted unanimously to deny the application in response to resident concerns. If Harman could convince the residents around him that a disc jockey would be less of an issue, Esham said he would have a better shot at approval.