Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Although it was clearly decided before this week’s meeting, it would have been nice to see the Worcester County Commissioners ask some more questions during the Department of Liquor Control (DLC) presentation to open a new store in northern Worcester County.

While we congratulate the DLC, a county-run monopoly, for deciding to expand the discount it gives bars and restaurants required to purchase their liquor from the government entity, the decision to build a new “flagship” store on Route 50 deserved more consideration rather than a rubber stamp.

It’s unclear when the Berlin store will close, but the West Ocean City store is expected to shutter within the next couple months. The plan is to move into a new shopping center being developed east of Advance Auto Parts on Route 50. In an attempt to basically reinvent its retail presence, the store, as well as all the other county-owned liquor stores, will now be called “Shore Spirits” instead of Liquor Marts. The long-range plan is to close Berlin and merge it with the new “flagship” location on Route 50 that will also reportedly feature wine in a more spacious, modern floor plan, but it’s unclear when that’s going to happen.

The finances behind this decision were presented in a report to the commissioners this week. The analysis shows what closing the West Ocean City and Berlin stores in favor of the larger, high-profile flagship store is estimated to produce. Rather than the current net loss of $19,751 for the combined West Ocean City and Berlin stores, which is mindboggling considering it’s a monopoly, the flagship store is projected to net a profit of $74,696. That’s assuming the new location will see sales increase to $1.87 million from the West OC/Berlin combined sales total of $1.71 million and total store expenses will decline 7 percent.

This decision is all about the money, and the numbers do not add up to me. Eliminating two stores in the north end in favor of one larger outlet should result in more than just a 7-percent savings. I question whether the single store’s sales will surpass what the two stores currently located in West Ocean City and Berlin ring.

Perhaps most interesting to me is what the private retail industry’s reaction to this move will be. Undoubtedly, there will be a void in Berlin without a liquor store. The same can be argued in West Ocean City as there will no longer be a liquor store along the north side of Route 50.

When it comes to new liquor licenses being issued, a “need” has to be proven. It’s going to be interesting to see over the coming months how many beer and wine licensees appear before the Board of License Commissioners seeking upgrades to liquor licenses. Obviously, if they are granted, the stores will have to buy from the DLC and then apply their own markups to their spirits, as other private liquor stores do currently. However, for some, the convenience of being able to buy beer, wine and liquor in one place over having to make two stops will be worth the extra cost.

Personally, while the convenience would be nice, I just don’t like buying liquor from the government, which already gets enough of my money anyway. I would prefer to pay a little bit more to help the independent business owners who have to compete with the government. I identify more with the underdogs.

——————————————————————- Should Ocean City spend about $10,000 to restore the landmark Indian sculpture at the Inlet?

Based on opinions expressed on our Facebook page yesterday, the public says it should, and I am inclined to agree the Indian should stay after getting some restoration work completed. It’s part of Ocean City’s history and there appears to be a certain sentimental attachment to the sculpture that might have never been realized previously. I know I was surprised to see so much passion and enthusiasm expressed about the sculpture.

Here’s a sampling of some of the constructive comments we received in response to yesterday’s story on the subject. There were about 60 simple comments of a simple “yes” along with a couple more wordy expressions of support, such as the following:

One citizen said, “Sure they should, after all if they can keep tearing up roads that are perfectly okay then I think they should take the money and fix the Indian. He has greeted vacationers for many, many years, he deserves to look good and get a face lift I always looked forward to seeing him when I was a kid and my parents would bring me to OC.”

Another said, “Certainly. It’s a landmark.”Another wondered, “How is this even a question? SPEND THE MONEY.”

Another suggested, “Ask for donations and redo the bench [behind the sculpture] as well with a dedication plate to whomever the person or group decides to dedicate it to. Save taxpayer $$$.”

Another said, “Part of the history of OC….go for it…”

Another quipped, “If they are stupid enough to decide not to fix it, I’m sure a lot of smart people (in the community and past visitors) will get together to raise donations to keep the old Indian well.”

Another post read, “Yes!!! The inlet would not be the same without it!”

Another post said, “It’s what I look for when I come to OC … Every since I was a kid it’s my "I’m here" moment when I see it!”

Yet another reported, “Yes … definitely worth the money and effort to restore/save the landmark! So unique…”

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.