Hooters To Rent Boardwalk Site From Non-Profits

OCEAN CITY — After several years of trying to find the perfect spot for a new Hooters in the Ocean City area, the local owners of the national franchise have announced they will open on 5th Street and the Boardwalk in June.

One of the city’s few national franchises has already started demolition and the building permit process on what was formerly a T-shirt shop and a bingo parlor. The property is being leased from three local non-profits, who share ownership of the building.

General Manager Matthew J. Ortt said that since he was hired as part of the management team at Hooters in 2003, there have been several attempts at opening a second location, including several spots in West Ocean City and one at the Centre in Salisbury.

When the 5th Street building became available, the owners jumped at the opportunity and finally settled on a lease agreement.

“We are ecstatic to get this Hooters up and running on the Ocean City Boardwalk, and we are pleased to be paying rent which will go directly to three non profit groups in the area, the Lions Club, the OC Volunteer Fire Department, and the American Legion,” Ortt said.

The location will have the same look and feel of the 123rd Street Hooters, which still ranks among the five busiest franchises in the world during the summer months, but it will be strictly the restaurant and bar portion of the business, as the entertainment that is offered uptown, will not be offered downtown.

“There are 185 total seats – 105 inside and 80 seats outside on the patio overlooking the Boardwalk and the ocean,” said Ortt. “We hope to be open by June 15, and we’ll be open seven days a week, from 11 a.m.-11 p.m.”

Ortt thinks that what Hooters offers, from lunch, dinner, and drinks to merchandise, will be a big draw for the folks strolling along the boards.

“I see this restaurant being more non-stop throughout the day based on the amount of foot traffic, so I think that there is a need for our restaurant down there,” said Ortt. “As for post the summer, we’ll probably shut down in the winter and open on weekends in the spring like many other Boardwalk businesses. But, once Springfest hits, we hope to be open seven days a week.”

Management believes the gigantic niche the uptown Hooters has created for itself will not be adversely affected by the emergence of a downtown location. Ortt did concede, however, he would be paying much more attention to the weather than ever before.

“When it rains in Ocean City, we are sometimes busier than when it is beautiful outside on 123rd Street,” said Ortt. “Obviously on the Boardwalk, if the weather is bad, the foot traffic won’t be there. I will say that during past years, I used to never go that far downtown, probably three times a year, and this year, I was joking with the owners that we’ll probably be going back and forth three times a day.”

The one thing the new location will do is provide a shot in the arm to the local workforce, as Ortt will be looking to hire 50 hourly employees and will staff a four-person management crew.

Ortt said the national headquarters was excited about the new location.

“Hooters of America is very excited, because in these economic times a lot of restaurants are closing down nationwide, and Hooters stores across the country are opening at about a third of the numbers that they were a few years ago,” said Ortt, “but, we don’t think that we’ll be cannibalizing ourselves because Ocean City is kind of broken down into like three different islands in the summertime. The biggest difference is that, like I said, I will probably see downtown Ocean City more this year, than I have in the 18 years that I’ve lived here, and we’ll be praying for great weather this season more than we probably ever have.”