Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

All of the Worcester Board of License Commissioners meetings are important, but next week’s seems particularly so because it’s the only thing keeping a couple new places from being opened already. In other cases, it’s the last step in a business sale that must occur before the transaction can be completed.

Among the new operations seeking alcohol licenses next week before the powerful board are Culture on Route 611 where Peppers Tavern was previously and is the brainchild of The Shark owners Travis and Jody Wright; a license transfer for a new Grotto Pizza within the Commander Hotel on 14th Street; the transfer of a license from the former owners of the Lazy Lizard to the new owners from Dead Freddies, although the name will remain the same; a transfer of the license from J/R’s in north Ocean City to the Tokyo Buffet on 131st Street; a new license for the Bull on the Beach’s Horn and Shell that is planned for Route 50 next to the West-O Bottle Shop; a transfer that will essentially complete the sale of the Captain’s Galley II on the harbor in West Ocean City to The Shrimp Boat; a transfer that will permit the new Leaky Pete’s Oyster Bar and Chophouse to open at the former Tex-Mex building in Berlin; and an application for a license at the new Crush and Crab in Berlin where Boomers was formerly located.

It’s going to be a long meeting.

Can Berlin support eight sit-down restaurants within two miles of each other? To me, and nobody is a bigger Berlin homer than me, that’s impossible.

Within a couple months, there will be eight full-service restaurants — the Atlantic Hotel, the Globe, Rayne’s Reef, Si’culi, Leaky Pete’s Oyster Bar and Chophouse (formerly the Tex-Mex), Burley Inn Tavern, Blacksmith and the Crush and Crab (formerly Boomers).

Add to those a deli, a couple coffee shops, a couple bakeries and other to-go options within a mile of downtown and the food scene has become saturated in Berlin, which is home to less than 5,000 year-round residents.

This commercial renaissance is exciting but I’m not convinced Berlin and the tourists that come here can keep them all open and prospering throughout the year. I hope to be writing in this space a year from now how I was a “Negative Nancy” with this position and need to get a clue, but I just don’t see that happening at this point.

I had no idea Ocean City was having trouble with dropped cellular phone calls and the like. I, for one, can’t recall ever having an issue. However, after listening to this week’s presentation from a company seeking to place an antenna system throughout town, it appears there is a major issue.

The idea of proposing 93 Distributed Cellular Antenna System nodes at various locations within Ocean City was not embraced by most members of the Mayor and Council this week. The slant eyes seemed to be rooted in various questions about the specifics of the proposal, including exactly where they would be located and how much money the city would receive for allowing them to be put on its infrastructure.

The general consensus was for city staff to evaluate the possibility of a non-exclusive franchise agreement with the company, but even that did not seem to have much support on the council this week. The city has every right to reject the proposal, but there needs to be specific reasons cited within a certain period of time, according to Solicitor Guy Ayres.

Ocean City Councilwoman Mary Knight, who previously worked in the telecommunications field, made her skepticism known.

“It is going to be difficult for me for you to use our city for your privately owned company. I will want to see some very reasonable pricing in exchange for our facilities. I want this to be revenue producing for the Town of Ocean City, and I am going to want to see data of what you charge other jurisdictions. We have to protect ourselves here. Right now, I am very concerned about this,” Knight said.

Senator Jim Mathias is hoping precedent is on his side with the legislation calling for all Maryland school systems to start school after Labor Day in September.

Despite a press conference at the beginning of the session for the bill that seemed to give it some momentum with the governor showing support, the legislation was never given true consideration in either the House or Senate. In fact, it was never even given a committee hearing. Why is unclear.

Mathias said this week the legislation was a “very complicated bill” and that another year may be needed to address the concerns of school superintendents as well as the teachers union. Those groups have resorted to scare tactics, calling the bill anti-children in a couple media reports.

“Sometimes, it takes more than one year,” Mathias said. “We have seen that with other big issues like casino gambling and offshore wind for example. Those were finally passed after multiple attempts. … I’m not giving up the fight.”

Perhaps the effort’s biggest cheerleader has been Comptroller Peter Franchot, who said last week on Montgomery County Media that he would consider having “a conversation with Gov. Hogan about doing it through executive order.”

I do not see the new governor doing that, but the bill definitely needs more consideration next year.