OCEAN CITY — Providing further evidence of the decline in the fees of certain franchises, resort officials this week agreed to award the horse-drawn carriage franchise to a lone bidder at a reduced rate.
In 2015, Ocean City established a horse-drawn carriage franchise with two routes including a route in the fall, spring and winter on the Boardwalk from the Inlet to 4th Street and a summer route in the downtown bayside area along St. Louis Avenue from 1st to 7th streets. At that time, the franchise was awarded to R&B Ranch with a fee on a sliding scale from $1,000 in the first year, $1,500 the second year and $2,000 the third year.
The three-year contract expired at the end of the December and the bidding for a new three-year contract was opened in November. However, no bidders for the horse-drawn carriage franchise came forward before the deadline. Instead, R&B came back to the town with an offer to continue to provide the amenity with a reduced fee schedule, City Clerk Diana Chavis told the Mayor and Council this week.
“No new bids for the franchise were received,” she said. “The previous franchisee said he did not submit a bid because he did not make enough in town and struggled to make the second- and third-year payments. He would like the Mayor and Council to consider a new three-year contract at $1,000 per year, hoping the business will improve over that period of time.”
The council somewhat reluctantly accepted the offer, but acknowledged the new contract represented a loss in revenue. Similar situations played out late last year with new arrangements for the beach vehicle vending and the beach photography franchises, for example, a point not lost on Councilman Tony DeLuca.
“This represents a $1,500 loss in revenue,” he said. “I just wanted to point that out.”
However, some on the council said the $1,500 reduction in the franchise fee over the three-year contract was a small price to pay for the amenity.
“I think it’s a nice amenity,” said Councilman Matt James. “As long as there is no damage to the Boardwalk, I think it’s a good idea to continue this at $1,000 per year.”
Council Secretary Mary Knight agreed and pointed to the positive response she gets while manning the Boardwalk information booth.
“People really do enjoy it on the Boardwalk,” she said. “It looks great on St. Louis Avenue too, so you have to look at it as a $3,000 gain.
In terms of the possible impact on the Boardwalk, Public Works Director Hal Adkins said he had no concerns.