OCEAN CITY — Resort officials this week approved the one and only bid for one of the two available beach photography franchises that came in slightly over the minimum acceptable bid.
Continuing a theme prevalent throughout Monday’s meeting, the Mayor and Council approved the bid for one of two beach photography franchises. Earlier in the meeting, the council learned there was only one bid for the town’s vehicle vending franchise and that the results of the recent auction for the north-end beach equipment bidding revealed only single bidders in a majority of the 18 parcels up for bid in the current cycle.
Ocean City’s beach photography franchise is essentially divided into two separate contracts and under the town’s code, one vendor can hold both franchises. By way of background, the beach photography franchise holder sends photographers, better known as “scopers,” on the beach each day in the summer to solicit residents and visitors to capture vacation memories through telescope-style pictures and other digital options. The two franchises are not divided geographically, but rather limit the number of photographers allowed on the beach to 15 each day.
The franchises are renewed every four years and the same vendor has held both of the town’s franchises for the last eight years. The current contract expired at the end of November and a new four-year contract was offered for both.
On Monday, the council voted unanimously to approve the single bid for just one of the two beach photography franchises at $152,500 per year, or $610,000 over the life of the four-year contract. The minimum acceptable bid for one of the beach photography franchises is $150,000.
It’s important to note up until 2010, the minimum acceptable bid for one of the franchises was $300,000, but that minimum was cut in half to $150,000 when it became apparent the business had become increasingly challenging, likely due to the proliferation of cell phones and social media platforms providing instant access to memories.
Nonetheless, the traditional telescope pictures hold a certain nostalgia for many long-time visitors and even residents of Ocean City. The successful bidder has been in the telescope pictures business for 18 years, starting as a “scoper” and rising to general manager in the company that formerly held the franchise. In a letter to the council, the successful bidder wrote, “Although the last four years have been challenging, we are committed to continuing the telescope pictures tradition.”