Seacrets Distillery Clears Final Ocean City Hurdle

OCEAN CITY – Seacrets received the final green light from the Town of Ocean City to move forward with the addition of a distillery.

Leighton Moore, owner of Seacrets Bar & Grill, requested last week the Mayor and City Council’s review of an application to establish a distillery on the south side of 49th Street and approve a Conditional Use to permit the existing establishment to erect the new distillery in the LC-1, Local Commercial District, similar to other manufacturing and wholesale establishments in the Town of Ocean City.

A public hearing was held before the Planning and Zoning Commission on May 19 where the commission forwarded a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council to approve the Conditional Use permit. The commission agreed that the use of the distillery coincides with the economy and tourism goals of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan.

Without discussion, the Mayor and City Council voted to approve the Conditional Use and Finding of Facts.

Moore will construct the distillery on 49th Street just east of Morley Hall where a parking lot sits now. An existing three-story apartment building, consisting of six condos, will be razed to make room for the project.

The distillery will be two stories with the distilling operation taking place on the first floor including a mashing tank, five fermentation tanks, stills and a bottling line. With the mashing and fermentation tanks reaching 20 feet tall, a mezzanine will serve as the second floor where a sampling bar and merchandise will be located.

The exterior esthetics of the building will be made of brick, exposed steel and the face of the building consisting of as much glass the Fire Marshal will allow for the public to view the operation from the outside.

According to Moore, the operation will be limited to producing 100,000 gallons of liquor per year with 15,500 gallons being sold out of Seacrets. The remainder will be distributed regionally and hopefully nationally, according to Moore.

Moore, who has toured numerous distilleries throughout the country, testified before the commission the entire operation will occur indoors.

The distillery will add 25 to 30 full-time jobs between the operation and giving tours. The plan is to have the distillery open 12 hours a day, seven days a week. The plans include a potential future expansion by adding a third and fourth floor to the building.

“In the future, I hope to be able to add a third floor with a kitchen, additional restrooms and an area where people will be able to enter Morley Hall. Morley Hall was designed structurally to have a large convention center on top of it,” Moore said before the commission. “The fourth floor would be used as a state-of-the-art recording studio, so I can get better bands and negotiate deals where they would get very good recordings, and I would get a lower price for them to play in Morley Hall.”

Testimony covered all of the typical topics prior to granting a Conditional Use permit, such as ample parking, sufficient loading dock, curb cuts and traffic control.

The commission recognized Moore has been mindful of his neighbors, and the distillery will serve as an additional year-round attraction.

In March, a bill sailed through the House and Senate establishing a Class 9 craft distillery license in Worcester, creating opportunities for those who obtain the license to distill spirits on their licensed premises and market them under their own label. While the new craft distillery license on the surface would be open to any business in Worcester that sought it, it is essentially tailored to Seacrets.