OCEAN CITY — An Ocean City restaurant was shut down for 30 days last week for allegedly flaunting the town’s laws against distributing flyers and handbills even after numerous convictions for the offenses.
Last week, City Manager David Recor, at the request of the Ocean City Police Department, officially suspended the business license for Marco Polo Pizza for a period of 30 days after the operator repeatedly ignored a city ordinance making it illegal to distribute flyers, handbills, coupons and other advertisements passed by the Mayor and Council in 2010.
The suspension came after Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officials presented evidence at a hearing last week demonstrating repeated violations, complaints and calls for service to the business even after it had been cited and convicted on at least eight occasions.
In 2010, Ocean City officials passed a new ordinance addressing the growing number of complaints about resort businesses posting flyers, handbills and other advertisements on the doors of residences, hotel rooms, condominiums and vehicle windshields. The new ordinance was passed after the problem reached a crescendo during the summer of 2010 when numerous businesses began escalating their distribution of flyers, advertisements and coupons. The issue was particularly prevalent in the highly competitive pizza business at the time.
During the summer of 2010, OCPD officers responded to numerous complaints from citizens, private property owners and businesses about the escalation of the omnipresent illegal flyers and advertisements. In some cases, not only were the offenders hanging the promotional materials on door handles but were also opening doors and putting the flyers and handbills inside.
After the Mayor and Council passed an ordinance making the distribution illegal, OCPD officers began systematically documenting each complaint to which they responded and were mandated to write a report and use a specific case number correlating to the pizza establishment in violation.
In April 2013, four Ocean City pizza businesses were asked to appear before Ocean City’s police commission to address repeated instances of illegal advertising. Three of the pizza shop owners appeared and were ordered to cease and desist the distribution of flyers or be subjected to possible penalties spelled out under the town’s ordinances on the distribution of advertising and handbills and littering.
Of the four businesses hauled in before the police commission to address the repeated violations, the one with the most documented offenses, Marco Polo Pizza, did not appear nor did it respond. After repeated citations and warnings from the OCPD, condominiums and hotels in the year-and-a-half since that hearing, Marco Polo Pizza has continued to violate the city ordinance.
On Sept. 17, the OCPD presented evidence at a hearing regarding the business license for Marco Polo demonstrating the repeated violations, complaints and calls for service regarding the distribution of handbills, flyers and other advertisements resulting in multiple warnings. According to an OCPD release, of the 54 verified complaints occurring in the last two years, 27, or exactly half, were related to Marco Polo.
The business was warned in writing on three separate occasions, according to the release. In addition, the OCPD formally charged Marco Polo eight separate times for violating the ordinance, resulting in convictions in District Court. Nonetheless, Marco Polo “continued the illegal practice even after the District Court convictions,” according to the release. As a result of the repeated violations and convictions, Recor last week at the close of the hearing suspended Marco Polo Pizza’s business license for 30 days.