Board Imposes Hefty Find For Noise Violation

SNOW HILL — This month’s Worcester County Board of License Commissioners (BLC) meeting saw a major fine levied for continuous noise violations, the expansion of an Ocean Pines sports bar’s beverage license and a preliminary look at a new Ocean City restaurant that would feature extensive outdoor dining.
While the hearing against Tap House on the Bay Bar and Grill and OC Steamers, located at 4507 Coastal Highway, was the only violation the board discussed for December, the total fines for the meeting far exceeded the average. Tap House was hit with a $4,000 penalty for receiving its fourth noise violation since July.
“Obviously, needless to say, we are a bit embarrassed and concerned to be here today,” said attorney Pete Cosby on behalf of Tap House. “We have taken efforts to try to avoid noise after our last appearance before this board and we are truly disappointed that we have failed. Noise was heard on this occasion.”
Tap House received the most recent noise violation on Nov. 2. It had similar previous violations on July 9 and 16 and Aug. 20. Cosby admitted that the efforts taken so far have not been successful.
“You failed four times,” said BLC Chair William Esham.
Cosby agreed but pointed out that the management has been doing multiple walks around the property every night to try to monitor noise. The bar’s music policy also has capped speaker volume at 50-percent maximum power. Following this most recent incident, the volume will further be reduced to play no higher than four out of 10 on the dial.
“We’re more educated now than we were on that night,” Cosby said. “We have had extensive conversations about the necessity, absolute necessity, of no noise escaping this premise given whatever conditions exist, whatever doors are open.”
But exterior doors do remain propped open when they shouldn’t be at Tap House, according to Ocean City Police Officer Kenneth Reed.
“I told them to keep those doors shut and there wouldn’t be a problem. You wouldn’t hear the music at all,” he told the board.
On each of the visits Reed has made to address noise complaints at Tap House, he has found the northeastern doors propped open, allowing music to escape. Whether or not the music is lowered, Reed explained that having those doors open made it easy for sound to leak out and be amplified by the design of the building. Esham had his own theories as to why Tap House received multiple warnings but still left their doors open.
“You gave up your outside entertainment and I’ve been here too damn long, I’m not fooled as to why the doors were open because you need entertainment outside,” he told owner Avi Sibony. “So you’re leaving the doors open so the inside entertainment can go outside. That’s what they’re doing whether you’re there or not. You’ve been warned and you’ve been warned fairly.”
BLC member Charles Nichols asked Sibony why he kept the same management team in place after all four noise violations.
“Why are they still with you if you’re still having a problem?” Nichols asked.
It was because they performed well in everything else and because the noise violations were mistakes, Sibony replied.
The board hefted a heavy penalty against Tap House, fining Sibony $4,000 and warning him that if it wasn’t paid on time his license would be suspended. If there are any future noise violations any time soon, Esham added, the BLC would come down much harder.
Besides the hearing, the BLC also reviewed a pair of applications. The first of which was for a new restaurant to be located on 5801 Coastal Highway in Ocean City. Named The Yellow Submarine, the bar would focus on providing outdoor dining.
“The idea is to sort of capture that market in the sense that people love coming to Ocean City,” said applicant Kevin Myers, “and they love to be outside in the open air.”
Even with the emphasis on open air, The Yellow Submarine would still be an “enclosed” restaurant, according to attorney Joe Moore, who represented Myers.
“In accordance with the requirements of the Town of Ocean City, we comply. We are an enclosed area,” said Moore.
The board isn’t required to adhere to definitions provided by Ocean City, however, and decided that it does not consider the proposed structure to be an enclosed space and therefore lacked the required seating for the requested Class B beer, wine and liquor license.
Residents in the nearby Oasis condominium turned out to protest the application but did not make their presentation since Myers withdrew his application after learning the board would not be willing to consider a Class B license. Myers is expected to re-file an amended application.
The BLC asked that, if the application is re-submitted that Moore, Myers and John Fager, who owns the property, return with “more specific answers” for things like parking and total number of seats.
“When you do come back, and I’m assuming that you will, we’re going to need some specific answers … whatever questions we ask,” Esham said. “It can’t be an open end. It can’t be.”
The final application heard by the board this month was for an expansion of Shooter’s Sports Pub’s existing alcoholic beverage license from beer and wine to beer, wine and liquor. Shooter’s is located at 10514 Racetrack Road in Berlin. When the pub received its original license, it lacked the seating needed to qualify for liquor.
“The reason that we asked for a beer and wine seven-day license was because we did not have the EDU capacity for 70 seats,” Moore, who also represented Shooter’s, told the board. “So therefore we did not qualify for beer, wine and liquor.”
The county has since resolved the issue and Shooter’s now has the required 70 seats. Shooter’s also asked for some additional entertainment to go with the expanded license, including the increase of live entertainment from three to four pieces and a DJ two nights a week.
The board is traditionally hesitant about granting disc jockeys due to the potential for an unwanted nightclub atmosphere. Moore acknowledged this but promised that Shooter’s would not be seeking a “personality DJ,” just someone to play music. Shooter’s also indicated that they would be willing to surrender the right to a DJ if it starts to cause trouble. The BLC granted the expansion of both the license and the entertainment.