Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – May 12, 2017

If having elementary school-aged children attend is the goal, a 10:30 p.m. start time for the twice-a-week fireworks shows on the Boardwalk is too late.

Now that the decision has been made, it will be interesting to observe what kind of impact the new time has on attendance and whether it hurts or helps businesses. Some business owners were vocal over the winter that the 10 p.m. start time crushed their business. In fact, one retailer said customers literally dropped their wares while standing in line to purchase when the fireworks start. A majority of them don’t come back either evidently.

Addressing those concerns is understandable and worthwhile. These businesses pay a lot of money for prime property on the Boardwalk, and the Mayor and Council should be sympathetic to word special events, like the fireworks, are hurting their finances.

However, the bottom line here is the fireworks will be too late at 10:30 at night for most young families to enjoy. Additionally, hotel guests with little ones near the fireworks display will surely be inconvenienced by the booms.

Ocean City Councilman Dennis Dare is right when he said, “It’s way too late. We’re a family resort and 10:30 p.m. is far too late at night for fireworks on the Boardwalk.”

My hope is the city decision makers keep a watchful eye on these free Boardwalk special events this summer to gauge visitor interest and the realistic impact they have on businesses. The comments made by Quiet Storm owner Bill Dreilbelbis back in February when the fireworks start time was first broached continue to ring in my head.

“I can’t tell you enough how much the fireworks hurt my business,” he said. “That 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. hour is my best hour of the day, but when you have fireworks, it kills it. I’m talking thousands of dollars. The free events just don’t help business. You want people to bring commerce. You are damaging the retailers on the Boardwalk. It’s not just me, a lot of us feel that way. The fireworks are a disaster for me.”

Traffic lights take a lot of time to come to fruition.

Back in September of 2013, the State Highway Administration announced a traffic study had concluded and the results merited the need for a new traffic light at Sunset Avenue and Route 611. At that time, the SHA said there were plans to place a traffic light at Elm Street and Route 50 on the heels of a fatality involving a pedestrian.

Forty-four months later, a light has been erected at Sunset Avenue and Route 611 and is expected to become functional by Memorial Day weekend. I think a light at this intersection has been needed for many years, but I hope it goes to a flashing yellow light or some hybrid system in the off-season months. It’s a light that’s sorely needed four months of the year and on busy off-season weekends, but it’s important to avoid what happens in Ocean City during the slow months — motorists stopped at traffic lights for no reason other than timing issues.

Immediately after a photo and article was posted about the traffic light online, many comments were made about the better place for a traffic light along Route 611 is at Assateague Road than Sunset Avenue. Based on the length of time between the Sunset Avenue study and the project coming to fruition, it looks like patience will be a virtue for those hopes.

It was a surprise a few members of the Ocean City Mayor and Council quickly changed their minds on liquor sales at the Inlet for OC BikeFest.

Ocean City Councilman John Gehrig deserves credit for bringing the matter back up this week after the event’s promoter penned a letter outlining some concessions she would make if it would gain the city’s approval. The promoter said strict restrictions would be in on place on drink sizes and alcohol content and that shots would be prohibited.

Even before these offers were made, I felt there was little reason not to allow mixed drinks to be sold at the Inlet. Gehrig’s points make sense to me.

“… we just got done with an event that has beer and wine at Springfest that went until 10 p.m.,” he said. “A lot of businesses on the Boardwalk sell beer and wine. Why is liquor different than beer and wine as far as the impact on businesses? BikeFest closes the gate at 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. so attendees can go out and visit the businesses. … We need consistency. … I just don’t know what the difference is with liquor and beer and wine. If somebody wants to get drunk, they’re going to get drunk. I don’t know why we’re the moral police when we allow beverages that have the same or higher alcohol content. Wine is basically double.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.