License Board Issues Warnings For Noise Violations

SNOW HILL — Reports for noise violations have become increasingly prevalent at Board of License Commissioner (BLC) meetings following a serious case in May that stripped an Ocean City restaurant of nearly all of its entertainment privileges. While hearings for noise violations have increased, the incidents themselves have been relatively minor and received no fines from the board at the September meeting.
Earlier this month, the board held hearings for four Ocean City businesses that had accumulated a combined seven noise violations, an unusually high number for any given month at the BLC.
Board Chair William Esham acknowledged that the body is more focused on noise complaints in the wake of May’s hearing on the Galaxy Bar and Grille, which had been operating under a “nightclub atmosphere,” according to neighbors.
The first hearing was for Fresco’s Seafood Restaurant, located at 8203 Coastal Highway in Ocean City. The alcoholic beverage license has been in place at Fresco’s for 12 years and has not received any other violations during that time.
Attorney Hugh Cropper, representing Fresco’s, told the board that the clean record was not a fluke and that the noise complaint received this summer was due to a simple mistake.
“In this particular occasion, I know this may sound a bit far-fetched, but there was a handicap person in a wheelchair and they propped the side doors open to allow the handicap person out and then a mistake was made and they never went back and closed the doors,” Cropper told the BLC. “As soon as they realized the problem, they closed the doors and the music was turned off, quite frankly.”
Because of the establishment’s solid record, the BLC chose to only put a letter for the violation on file, which will re-surface if Fresco’s has any other future issues.
In a similar vein, the next hearing was for the Rio Grande Café, located on 145th Street in Ocean City, which has had no violations on its license in 23 years. It was before the board with a pair of noise complaints, both lodged in August.
The owner’s implemented a new policy to discourage any more noise violations, according to attorney Joe Moore. Any band that causes a disturbance will lose any payment it would have received for the show. The board also put a letter on file for Rio.
The third noise violation hearing was for Seacrets, located at 49th Street in Ocean City. Though Seacrets is a large and popular visitor destination with live music offered daily in the summer, it has been able to avoid noise issues through soundproofing up to this point, said Moore. But there was an issue when the stage was being repaired and the sound proofing failed.
“They have spent a large sum of money in soundproofing all of their entertainment venues,” he said. “What had happened was the area where the bandstand is was being repaired … They had not re-established the sound barrier.”
Seacrets collected three noise violations over the summer before the soundproofing was corrected but it has been fixed and is now better than before, Moore told the board.
“It’s evident that you can see there was an effective and immediate response to the circumstances,” he said.
As with the other hearings, the board chose to forgo fines and put a letter on file, though Esham warned that if more violations occurred, Seacrets will need to explain why.
“Obviously, if it continues, we’ll have to call you in,” he said.
The final noise complaint hearing was for the Tap House on the Bay Bar and Grille and OC Steamers, located at 45th Street. Tap House has had some issues in the past, but the owner has “taken aggressive steps” to curtailing noise problems, according to attorney Pete Cosby.
For the violation which occurred in July, the excessive noise wasn’t actually caused by a band playing but by that band’s iPod, which was connected to speakers while they cleaned up after a show.
“And the band just started playing their own music while they were breaking down their equipment, so it was an unfortunate circumstance where there was a momentary lapse in control. However, that’s not going to happen again,” Cosby said.
The aggressive steps he mentioned include now rerouting all music directly through house speakers that management controls. Tap House also offered to reduce outside entertainment hours to a midnight cutoff, which the board made official. Besides the reduction in music hours, the BLC did not issue a fine but chose to put a letter on file.
The board did issue a fine to Assateague Market, located at 7643 Stephen Decatur Highway in Berlin, for a non-noise related violation. The market was fined $500 for selling alcohol to a minor, an undercover police cadet.
There was no excuse, admitted attorney Mark Cropper. The clerk even asked for an ID but decided to sell to the cadet even when they could not present one. In response to the violation, the market has installed a new ID scanner.
Esham pointed out that with the market’s last violation having the scanner wouldn’t have mattered as the clerk simply chose to make the sale without seeing ID.
Assateague Market had two prior violations of the same nature, though it has passed three compliance checks since then.