OC Business Seeks More Entertainment Privileges; Board Holds Off Decision

SNOW HILL — A business request to have a few entertainment privileges restored this week met with a renewed round of complaints from neighbors, causing the Board of License Commissioners (BLC) to take the changes under advisement and delay a decision for 30 days.
The Galaxy Bar and Grille, and specifically the restaurant’s Skye Bar on the roof, came under fire in May for a series of noise and disturbance complaints logged by neighboring residents the summer before. In response, music privileges for Skye Bar were greatly reduced by the BLC. However, now that owners Tammy and Roger Cebula have installed a number of sliding glass sound-proof panels around the bar, they are seeking the return of a few privileges and one new one.
The proprietors requested permission at this week’s BLC meeting to play background house music until 11 p.m. as well as added the use of “Party Headphones-The Ultimate Guide to Silent Disco.” Finally, they would like to be able to operate bar televisions through their amplification system until 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights during football season. All requests would only be allowed inside of the new glass enclosed “atrium” of the Skye Bar.
Attorney Mark Cropper, who represented the Cebulas, acknowledged that the Skye Bar took a hit to its reputation last year and the loud music and atmosphere caused nearby residents a lot of headaches. But the Cebulas are ready to do their due diligence to earn back some of their lost privileges, he said, and the new glass atrium on the Skye Bar is incredibly effective at sound management.
Ocean City Police Department Public Information Officer Mike Levy and BLC Chief Investigator Jeff Mayne visited the Skye Bar at Cropper’s request to witness the effectiveness of the paneling.
“We heard little to nothing, sound-wise, with the amplification turned up,” Levy said.
Nonetheless, several of the Galaxy’s neighbors were at the hearing to protest the return of privileges.
Attorney John Robins, who represented several of those residents, told the BLC that they didn’t need to tour the atrium and were willing to take Mayne and Levy at their word that it reduced the noise inside. That wasn’t the only issue, though, and Robins explained the neighborhood’s concerns went beyond that.
“It’s not just the music. It’s the loud volume of the conversations of the customers,” said Robins. “Now this ‘Silent Disco,’ even the name does not suggest that it’s a dinner, background type of thing.”
The party headphones would be available to any customer at the bar with the music controlled by the bartender. Because the music is only in the headphones and the headphones can only be worn inside of the atrium, Robins admitted that there was no chance of residents hearing that music. But the headphones would likely appeal to the same nightclub crowd that affected their quality of life the previous summer, he said.
“The problem with the night club was not necessarily hearing the music; that was one component,” said Robins. “But it was the loud and at times obscene voices at 2 a.m. that may be wearing headphones or might not be wearing headphones, but it’s what the nightclub attracts.”
Robins said residents were less bothered by the house music and television amplification but would ask that dining outside of the atrium stop after 8:30 p.m. on nights when the music is being played or TV amplified. Cropper argued against that, saying that as long as the music and TV was kept inside of the atrium it shouldn’t matter if there is outside dining or not, as the sound won’t penetrate the glass.
“I would hope that the board would appreciate that the risk of disturbance to the neighbors is virtually nonexistent,” he said.
But Robins and several of the residents in attendance remained staunchly opposed and cited fears of a nightclub atmosphere returning. Even if music is confined to the atrium, the patrons can walk out to the open-air Skye Bar and continue shouting or hold loud conversations, said Robins.
“The return to a disco or night club genre is a big concern to us because it attracts a different clientele,” he said.
Neighbor Richard Wicker agreed and criticized the Cebulas for not following promises he said they made to residents after the Skye Bar had most of its music privileges stripped in May.
“During the meeting, it was adamantly discussed that there was going to be no pursuit of changes to liquor board restrictions on music,” said Wicker. “They just wanted, potentially, to have house music only at the establishment so I was very shocked to see the letter come to me asking for all of these additional changes to restrictions considering the conversations that we had.”
He also wondered if this would be the last change to their license that the Cebulas seek now that they have installed the atrium.
“What’s the next request that’s going to come?” he asked.
After discussion, the BLC chose to delay a vote for 30 days. Chair William Esham told residents that he understands their trepidation given the extent of the complaints and issues at Skye Bar during the summer of 2012. He apologized that the BLC even allowed such an atmosphere to grow.
“I’m concerned for you people and you deserve to be concerned. I’m still ashamed and embarrassed by what we caused you last summer or what were a part of causing you,” said Esham.
However, Esham said that the board also wants to be reasonable and realistic in helping businesses and if the Cebulas application didn’t present too much of a risk it could be allowed.
“You don’t have any real reason at this point, I guess, to trust Roger and Tammy. I would like to find one,” he said.
Esham and the board plans to visit the Skye Bar to gauge the effectiveness of the atrium personally and invited any interested residents to attend as well. The discussion will return next month when a final vote on the Galaxy’s request is expected.