OCEAN CITY — Resort officials this week stalled a decision on closing a section of 48th Street to accommodate a midtown business party amid concerns over public safety and parking issues.
During last week’s Ocean City Police Commission meeting, the owners of the Red Red Wine Bar in the Gateway Grand complex at 48th Street requested permission to close the street on the east side of Coastal Highway to accommodate a St. Patrick’s Day Parade party on March 16. Red Red Wine and sister establishment Dry 85 want to host a parade day party serving beer, wine and Bloody Mary’s in a tent in a section of parking adjacent to the public street to provide an alternative to the thousands of parade-goers in that area.
Last week, the police commission told the business owners to go back to the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners seeking permission to basically extend their liquor license to the area desired for the parade-day party without closing the street. However, Councilman Tony DeLuca told his colleagues on Tuesday the business operator said not closing the street was a deal-breaker for the proposed party.
“He called me today and told me the liquor board has said the street has to be closed to accommodate their request to extend their license,” he said. “The property has to be contiguous and they can’t have a single lane of traffic open, so they need the closure to be able to do this.”
Councilman Dennis Dare said he was not receptive to the idea of closing a public street and losing some on-street parking on one of the busiest days of the offseason. In addition, Dare said there were public safety issues associated with the request.
“That is one of the largest condos in Ocean City,” he said. “In the interest of public safety, I think it would be irresponsible to close the road.”
However, Councilman Matt James said there was likely a way to accommodate the establishment’s request while meeting the liquor board’s contiguous demands. He discounted the notion closing the street would create public safety issues.
“If we close the street, I don’t think it would be a public safety issue,” he said. “I’m sure the police and fire department could still access 48th Street if there was an emergency.”
James said there was likely a way to meet the street closure request while keeping at least some areas of 48th Street open to the public. He made a motion to honor the request to close the street as requested.
“We don’t have to close all of 48th Street,” he said. “We could probably just close the spots closest to Coastal Highway and the parking spaces closer to the beach could remain open.”
Nonetheless, Dare could not be dissuaded from his concerns about losing parking spaces on parade day.
“I don’t think that we should take away parking for something like this, especially on a day like the St. Patrick’s Day parade,” he said. “It’s a pretty popular area around there and they are going to need those spaces.”
Councilman Mark Paddack seemed inclined to approve the request, citing DeLuca’s conversation with the business operator that very afternoon.
“Councilman DeLuca said he has spoken with owner of the business just this afternoon and they need closure to meet the requirements of the liquor board,” he said. “I don’t know why we need to kick this down the road again for another week.”
However, Council Secretary Mary Knight said there was still time to review the entire plan.
“Nobody on the council aside from the committee members has seen the schematics for this,” she said. “I don’t think we need to make a decision on this right now because we have some time.”
The council voted to bring the issue back to next week’s work session.