OC Officials Approve Serving Liquor In Air Show Chalets

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Mayor and Council have signed off on a proposal to allow alcohol to be served in the hospitality tents on the beach during the 2018 O.C. Air Show after gaining assurances the intent is not to sell booze. =

On Tuesday, the City Council heard a request to allow alcohol to be served in the hospitality tents, or “chalets,” on the beach during the O.C. Air Show in June. The request, if approved, would allow corporate sponsors with chalets in the rented and ticketed areas along the beach in the air show’s basic footprint between 14th and 17th streets to invitees.

Last year, the Mayor and Council approved the sale of liquor at the OC Bikefest’s Inlet’s events after a rather contentious debate. In this case, the proposal would allow corporate sponsors who host air show parties in their rented hospitality tents to serve alcohol to their guests. Special Events Director Frank Miller explained there was none of the expected fallout from allowing liquor to be sold and consumer during the Bike Week events at the Inlet last year.

“In regard to the request for distribution and consumption of liquor, there is a precedent as the town approved this same request for OC Bikefest in 2017,” he said. “After reviewing the event, having liquor did not cause any apparent changes to the impact OC Bikefest had on the town, while it was considered a benefit to the event promoter and patrons.”

Miller said while Bike Fest promoters counted on the sale of hard liquor at its Inlet events as a key element to attracting and retaining participants, the O.C. Air Show merely wanted to add a nice amenity for its patrons in the hospitality tents.

“It’s not as important to them as it was to Bike Fest,” he said. “They do not feel it will be a real asset for them. It’s a different crowd with Bike Fest. Bike Fest consumption is much greater than what is expected with the O.C. Air Show.”

One of the key elements to the debate last year with the sale of alcohol at the Bike Fest Inlet events was competition with existing licensed bars and restaurants in the area. However, Miller said there is no desire to sell alcohol during the air show in the hospitality tents.

“They want to be able to serve alcohol in the small rented chalets,” he said. “They have no desire to sell it. They just want to allow their guests to consume alcohol in a private setting under their rented chalets.”

Councilman Wayne Hartman made a motion to approve the request with the stipulation the servers of the alcohol would be trained and certified. Miller said that could be added as an addendum to the town’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the promoter. Council Secretary Mary Knight said she has observed first-hand the diligence with which the air show’s hospitality tent workers checked for identification in the past.

“In the past, even with just beer and wine, I’ve seen them carding everybody,” she said. “I don’t see it being a problem at all.”

Councilman John Gehrig questioned if the request on the table was consistent with the request made last year from the Bike Fest promoters.

“I have a question about our consistency,” he said. “We debated this a lot with Bike Week. We allowed that in part because of increased sponsorship opportunities. Is that the same here?”

Miller said the two requests were essentially apples and oranges.

“This one is a little different,” he said. “They don’t see any value from sponsorships. They are looking for the ability to serve alcohol in a private setting and they want to entertain their guests.”

The hospitality tents are rented by local, regional and national businesses to entertain guests during the air show. Miller said there would be signage on the tents for the various corporations, but not any signs promoting alcohol.

“You may see signs for the corporations that sponsor the hospitality tents,” he said. “You won’t see signs for Jack Daniels or whatever all over the beach.”

Steven Webster, speaking on behalf of the O.C. Air Show, reiterated the event does have some known alcohol companies as sponsors, but that it is not a major part of the marketing and promotion.

“Jack Daniels is a sponsor for our event, just like Bacardi in the past,” he said. “We’ve never sold their products at our events. This is just hospitality. We’ve never sold alcohol on the beach and even the beer sales are at a minimum. We’re a very family-friendly event.”

The council approved the request to serve alcohol in the air show hospitality tents, or chalets, during the 2018 event with the stipulation the servers will be trained and certified and no sales will be conducted. The town’s existing MOU with the O.C. Air Show extends to 2020, but the serving of alcohol in the tents will come up for review after this year’s event prior to any decision on next year. The approval will be attached as an addendum to the existing MOU.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.