False Bomb Threat Disrupts Friday Night In Berlin; Main St. Businesses Evacuated

BERLIN — America’s “coolest small town” lived up to its reputation last Friday in the face of a bomb threat in the heart of the downtown Berlin area with a calm and cool evacuation of businesses and resumption of the typical Friday night festivities after the “all clear” was given.

Around 6 p.m. on Friday, the Berlin Police Department received an anonymous call. The caller stated he had planted 10 homemade bombs in and around the first block of N. Main Street. The caller revealed the bombs were set to go off in three hours, or roughly 9 p.m. The caller told police the bombs were placed in or around an address, but failed to mention a specific business.

Berlin Police, along with the Worcester County Bureau of Investigation (WCBI), the Maryland State Police Criminal Enforcement Division and members of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office evacuated the Globe Restaurant, the Atlantic Hotel and Rayne’s Reef Restaurant, which were the only businesses open in the immediate area, along with one residence.

After the evacuation of the first block of N. Main Street and the surrounding area, a search was conducted in the area utilizing the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office K-9 bomb dog. The extensive search revealed negative results and the all clear was given. The businesses were advised they could re-open and a less than typical Friday night in Berlin resumed.

The investigation into who made the bomb threat and why is ongoing and has been turned over to WCBI. Anyone with information is urged to contact WCBI at 410-632-111.

At Monday’s Berlin Mayor and Council meeting, Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing praised the downtown businesses and their patrons for the calm and orderly reaction to the bomb threat.

“We’d like to thank all the downtown businesses for their cooperation and assistance during the evacuation and bomb threat situation,” he said. “Knowing and having great partners in the community really helped us do our job.”

Atlantic Hotel Chef Leo D’Leo said he was in his apartment near the restaurant on Friday evening when he was alerted of the bomb threat by a member of his staff.

“I was initially unaware of the situation until one of our kitchen people texted me and said we need you down here because we need some guidance,” he said. “I went downstairs and they had moved everybody from the sun porch and that side of the restaurant into the ballroom. It was very orderly and calm. They were sweeping the area across the street.”

D’Leo said the allied law enforcement agencies conducted their search and eventually gave the all clear for downtown businesses and their patrons to resume normal activities. D’Leo said he made a decision early on to handle those guests who had already ordered food and then close the kitchen for the night under the circumstances.

“They did the sweep and gave us the all clear, but at that point, our night was pretty much ruined from the kitchen standpoint,” he said. “We kept the bar open after the all clear was given, but we closed the kitchen. I said let’s give a last call for food and feed those who had already ordered, but we had to err on the side of caution.”

D’Leo said despite being a Friday night, the decision to close the bar and send his people home for the night was an easy one.

“It’s not like it was a big day, but Friday is typically busier than Saturday in Berlin for some reason,” he said. “It made for a very strange situation and we have no real protocol for a bomb threat. In light of what’s going on in the world today, we had to take this threat very seriously. We made a decision to play it safe. It’s our obligation to our co-workers, our friends and our neighbors.”

D’Leo said police came around on Saturday and thanked the businesses for their cooperation during the incident. He had equal praise for law enforcement’s handling of the situation.

“They’re here to protect and serve and they did just what they had to do,” he said. “This incident really showed they’re on top of their game.”

Atlantic Hotel Bar Manager Cassie Stuart said the bar and restaurant were bustling on a Friday evening, but the evacuation was orderly and everyone cooperated.

“It was before happy hour was over and the bar was full and the restaurant was full,” she said. “The police came in and they were very nice, but a little vague. They told us there was a situation and we had to evacuate that side of the building with the bar and the sun porch. It was noisy and I made a calm, but firm announcement and everybody calmly got up and moved over to our banquet room with their drinks. We fed those who were already eating and some who had already ordered, and then we made the decision to close the kitchen.”

Stuart said after the threat was determined to be false, business returned to normal somewhat on an otherwise busy Friday.

“After maybe 30 minutes, they gave us the all clear and most just filtered back over to the bar area,” she said. “There were a lot of regulars and a lot of locals and everybody was generally pretty calm and orderly. After the all clear was given, we kept the bar open. It was a scary situation, but people hung around and it turned out to be a decent night all things considered.”

Over at The Globe, owner and operator Jennifer Dawicki was checking with the band and debating on when to have it start playing when she was notified there was some kind of situation going on outside. Dawicki said she didn’t see anything immediately on Broad Street, but saw a law enforcement vehicle already blocking Main Street. Dawicki identified herself to a police officer and asked what was going on.

“He told me there was a bomb threat and that we had to evacuate immediately,” she said. “I quickly went back and informed our staff members and then we began telling our guests we had to evacuate. People closed out checks, boxed up food where possible and filed out in an orderly fashion. In about 10 or 15 minutes max, we were completely cleared out.”

Dawicki said she gathered with her staff at the Food Lion parking lot to wait for more information and instructions from law enforcement. About 30 minutes later, Berlin Police called her and said they were clear to return. The Globe was able to salvage a decent late winter Friday night despite the disruption.

“We weren’t jamming by any stretch, even before the situation unfolded, but business was definitely affected,” she said. “We had Full Circle ready to play and they are a huge draw for us, but the crowd that returned after the threat was over was miniscule. We basically had a private concert for a small crowd that came back and we wrapped up the night around 11.”

Dawicki said she wasted no time getting her crew and her patrons out the door once she knew about the situation.

“It certainly felt like everything was smooth,” she said. “You have to take everything seriously and err on the side of caution. You have to remember these people are somebody’s mother, father, brother or sister and they belong to somebody else. It looks like it might turn out to be a hoax and that’s a shame, but honestly, I don’t think it could have been handled any better.”

Although business was obviously disrupted and she lost a considerable amount of sales on what would have been a solid Friday night with Full Circle playing, Dawicki said some of her guests came back when the situation was over and many returned the following day.

“We did see some bounce back that night and especially the next day,” she said. “That’s another example of what makes this community so awesome.”