Mixed Outcomes For Local Operators Looking To Expand Liquor Businesses

SNOW HILL — Applicants seeking expanded licenses from the Board of License Commissioners (BLC) Wednesday met with mixed results, with one application approved, one denied and a third compromised.

The first applicant seeking a major change to a local business was Scott Heise, owner of Pizza Tugos in West Ocean City. His application asked the board for permission to install arcade games on the second floor of his restaurant.

“What we’d like to do is take the second floor area and make it a family entertainment center,” said attorney Hugh Cropper, representing Heise.

According to Heise, the upstairs of his restaurant is about 2,300 square feet and is “underutilized at this point and time.” Because of the traditional winter slow-down around Ocean City, Heise told the BLC that his upstairs, which remains available for seating, has too much space right now. This led him to consider the idea of installing video, arcade and entertainment games to expand Pizza Tugos’ service and attract more families.

“We’re looking for more kids always,” he said. “We’re looking kind of at Chucky Cheese; maybe going a little higher in the demographic area … we’re looking at something that just doesn’t exist around here.”

Heise requested to be allowed 30 games to be spread out around the second floor. However, the board had some concerns about putting those many machines in the space, especially since Heise said he plans on continuing traditional table service upstairs.

The BLC decided to only approve 12 games and only in a designated section of the second floor. It also required Heise to produce a floor plan signed by the fire marshal before he installs the machine.  

The second license change request was from the Marina Deck Restaurant in Ocean City. Owner Dennis Kalchthaler requested several changes to his operation, including expanding his allowable live entertainment from three to seven pieces, and allowing a disc jockey on-site and allowing the off sale of beer, wine and liquor. Kalchthaler explained that his plan is to add a rooftop bar area.

“We will have two gazebos that will be open air and a bar that will be open air,” he said.

The bar would have glass railings 48 inches high to reduce noise to the surrounding area. However, some of Kalchthaler’s neighbors were skeptical that the railing would be sufficient to eliminate all noise pollution and had further doubts that the expansion could be controlled.

“We can’t handle that kind of noise,” said Jim Miller, president of the White Marlin Condominiums, which is adjacent to Marina Deck. “We can’t handle that kind of foot traffic.”

Miller was also concerned about potential litter that could be generated from operating carry-out food and alcohol. By having a seven-piece band or DJ, Miller argued that Kalchthaler would be turning Marina Deck into a “nightclub.”

“It’s just not what we need,” said Miller.
Kalchthaler acknowledged the concerns but promised to be a good neighbor.

“If we have any issues, I can fix them on the spot … We’re going to police our business,” he said.

However, two other residents of the condos protested the application on the same grounds listed by Miller. BLC President William Esham recused himself from the board for the deliberation since he owns a condo at White Marlin. As a private citizen, Esham asked the board how many nearby businesses already allow carry-out alcohol. There was a significant list.

The board denied the application, citing the concerns of neighbors and the fact that there were no plans to expand the current parking to accommodate the additions.

The final license expansion application heard by the BLC fared better than the rest. Avi Sibony, owner of 45th Street Tap House and neighboring OC Steamers, requested an expansion of his premises by installing an addition with roughly 340 new seats indoor and outdoor. In addition, he sought a stage and up to five pieces of live entertainment seven days per week between 1 p.m. and 1 a.m. Finally, Sibony asked for two pool tables and five amusement games.

Like Marina Deck, the board appeared hesitant to expand the license so significantly.

“It’s big enough that it can get out of hand in a hurry,” said Esham. “It’s a double-edged sword. This looks like he’s going towards a nightclub, there’s no two ways about it. I’ve been there long enough to know what it looks like.”

However, Sibony promised that the traditional layout of the restaurant would remain and tables would not be cleared out to create a dance floor. Esham said he was willing to take Sibony at his word for now, though any problems would result in the hammer dropping.

“He’s committed that he will leave it a restaurant and leave the tables in there,” said Esham.

The BLC did limit Sibony to only six pieces of total arcade equipment instead of the requested seven, however.

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