SNOW HILL – Though some restrictions have been imposed, American Legion Post 93 in Pocomoke will keep its liquor license.
On Wednesday, in a hearing continued from last month, the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners (BLC) approved the renewal of the American Legion’s liquor license. The board, did, however, prohibit alcohol sales past 11 p.m. and imposed a variety of restrictions related to special events at the facility.
“If the community’s complaining it’s going to be a problem,” BLC Chairman William Esham said as the lengthy hearing came to an end.
Last month, the BLC heard from dozens of Pocomoke residents regarding the American Legion on Bypass Road. The renewal of the facility’s longtime liquor license came into question following community concerns about violence in the area. In February, a woman was wounded in a shooting near the Legion.
After hours of testimony both for and against the Legion’s license April 17, the BLC continued the hearing to May 16. Paul Corbin, current commander of Post 93, told the board numerous issues had been addressed during the past month. He said the Legion had installed exterior lighting and multiple security cameras. The biggest changed, however, is the rental agreement the facility now has in place. In the past, written rental contracts weren’t required. Many of the problems at the facility related to parties hosted there by outside groups.
“We’ve learned a lot of things since our previous meeting,” Corbin said.
Bobby Cowger, Pocomoke’s city manager, said city officials were impressed with Corbin’s efforts and were satisfied with the changes. He pointed out, however, that leadership at the Legion could change in June when Post 93 held elections.
“We just want to make sure whatever’s done now that you guys put enough teeth in it to make sure that it maintains that,” Cowger said.
Joseph Bailey of the Pocomoke City Police Department, one of the individuals who expressed concern regarding the Legion’s impact on public safety last month, asked Corbin what role the previous bar manager would have going forward.
“That is where the mismanagement of the Legion stemmed in the past,” Bailey said.
Corbin said the manager was simply a member of the American Legion’s auxiliary and did not have a leadership role. When asked who would manage the sale of alcohol going forward, Corbin said it would be a Legion member. He said the group might also hire an outside bartender.
Ronnie Durham, who owns a garage near the Legion, told the BLC he didn’t think the changes that had been implemented in the last month would address the problem. He said littering and violence could still occur outside the building itself.
“I still think control outside their building has to be addressed,” he said.
BLC member Marty Pusey said that after hearing testimony and reviewing police incident reports it appeared that the majority of the problems at the Legion in recent years related to its rentals for special events.
Corbin said she was correct.
“The facility has slowly evolved to more of a nightclub atmosphere,” he said, adding that the new rental rules and procedures would ensure that the facility served the purpose it was meant to. “The rules we’re implementing now are to provide services to a limited population.”
The board agreed to renew the Legion’s license with the condition that alcohol wasn’t served past 11 p.m., attendance didn’t exceed 150 people and that special events included food service, among other stipulations.