Between The Lines

It’s been a big week for alcohol-serving establishments. Besides gearing up for the busiest weekend of the summer for many, they are getting a new leader of the liquor monopoly that controls each of their expenditures throughout the year and are dealing with the additional sales tax on beer, wine and spirits.

It’s safe to say many are too busy to worry about what the arrival of former County Commissioner Bobby Cowger and the ousting of former Liquor Control Board Executive Director Brian Sturgeon will have on them. Basically, all most really want is a fair game to be involved in.

They understand the monopolistic way and that there will be a markup on all liquor purchased. After all, the monopolistic way in this county will now be for the government to buy spirits directly from the wholesalers, adjust the price to consider whatever profit is desired after paying employees, rent and other fixed costs and then sell it to the restaurant and bar owners and retail stores.

However, what the licensees simply want — and basically always have — is for it to be open and transparent and understandable, rather than bizarre, random and with malicious intentions. They want the seemingly random increases on some products over the other to end. For instance, one bar owner told me last weekend he paid a 35-percent markup on a rail vodka last month while 18 percent for a premium vodka. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.

If Cowger bringS some sort of understanding and consistency to the prices, things should start to smooth out for the industry.

Regarding the ridiculous 50-percent hike on the alcohol tax, which took effect today, operators have had to alter all their point-of-sale systems in advance of the new 9 percent tax on alcohol. They have had plenty of time to make the changes, but unfortunately it has come with some financial expense to many.

The end result will mean when a customer gets a bill for dinner out with the family it will have an extra line on it, signifying the tax on alcohol. That’s going to be a constant reminder to me about the legislature’s big money grab and the fact most of the increases will be going to the western shore. It may just be 9 cents more on a $3 beer, but it still doesn’t sit well.

As expected, Ocean City has a lawsuit on its hands regarding the emergency ordinance enacted last month about street performers. However, the specific nature of the lawsuit was quite different than anticipated.

Street performer Mark Chase followed through on previous threats this week, filing a lawsuit claiming his First Amendment rights were violated when he was told on June 21 by police to move from a certain location on the Boardwalk (not N. Division Street where performers were banned by ordinance). He alleges police have retaliated against him specifically and reportedly told him they would remove him from anywhere on the Boardwalk whenever a complaint was received.

In this case, Ocean City believes public safety trumps everything and that street performers have been afforded numerous others places to perform their craft on the Boardwalk. Chase believes he has legal precedents on his side to the contrary that say restricting access of any sort violates his rights.

It’s an interesting argument, but one I suspect the city will win and hopefully do so without a lot of taxpayer money being spent on the case.

The Dew Tour will be here in a couple short weeks, and a rumor that has been circulating around town for months was confirmed this week — Shaun White will be performing.

In the world of extreme sports, White is a household name. Even in larger circles, most know of White for his Gold medal snowboard performances in the Winter Olympics last year. However, most may not realize he is an accomplished skateboarder as well.

What was so unbelievable about White in the Olympics was the tremendous vertical air he got during his acts. I’m looking forward to seeing how high he gets off the ramp in Ocean City.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.