OCEAN CITY — As expected, resort officials this week approved closing a section of 48th Street to accommodate a midtown business’s St. Patrick’s Day parade party after some late recommendations from the Ocean City Fire Marshal.
Several weeks ago, the owners of the Red Red Wine Bar in the Gateway Grand complex at 48th Street requested permission to close a portion of the street closest to Coastal Highway to accommodate a St. Patrick’s Day parade party. The Mayor and Council instructed the business operators to go back to the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners to seek permission to host the satellite party in a tent in a section of a parking lot adjacent to the public street in an effort to avoid closing the street.
However, the county board told the business operators the only way to accommodate the satellite parade day party is if the site was contiguous to the licensed premises, which necessitated closing a portion of 48th Street to the public during the event. The council appeared poised to approve the road closure during its meeting last week, but opted instead to get one more opinion from the Ocean City Fire Marshal on potential concerns.
The fire marshal made some recommendations, but had essentially signed off on the proposed closure as long as the travel portion of 48th Street remained clear of any obstacles and for the proposed motel barriers in the street to be replaced with traditional wooden sawhorse-style barriers that do not require any time of special training to remove in the event of an emergency.
In addition, the fire marshal expressed a desire for the restaurant’s management and staff to develop an emergency plan in the event there was an issue. As a result, the restaurant owners assured the fire marshal and the town’s elected officials the managers and staff had developed an emergency operation plan for the event and all managers on site had completed a crowd management exam provided by the Ocean City Police Department.
The Mayor and Council had before them on Monday a proposed traffic regulation change that would allow a portion of 48th Street to be closed during the parade day event, but before it was brought up to a vote, Councilman Dennis Dare had a few more questions to resolve.
“I went by the site and I have a question,” he said. “Why isn’t the parking lot adjacent to the restaurant being utilized? Why use that other lot and create a public safety concern?”
Business owner Brian Bolter explained the lot proposed for the event was the only large enough on the property to support it.
“That side parking lot is smaller and about half of the spaces are handicap,” he said. “The lot we’re considering for the event has 50 parking spots that are dedicated to the restaurant. It’s probably four or five times the size.”
Dare said he had no problem with the parade day party conceptually and wished the business owners good luck.
“I hope your event is successful and I hope you fill up that entire space,” he said. “I think St. Patrick’s Day parade weekend has grown to really become the kickoff for the season.”
However, Dare said he could not vote for or against the proposed closure and instead opted to abstain.
“I don’t want to vote against this because I don’t want to vote against business doing well,” he said. “However, I don’t want to vote for it because I feel there is a public safety issue with closing the street and I don’t want that on my conscience if something happens, so I’m going to abstain from the vote.”
For his part, Bolter attempted to allay some of Dare’s concerns, reiterating the support of emergency services and the approved emergency management plan.
“We have assurances from the police department and the fire department that we’ve done everything possible to ensure this is a community-safe event and we’ll work hard hand-in-hand with them to make sure that happens,” said Bolter.
Councilman Mark Paddack said he was confident all reviews of the proposed plan, including the fire marshal’s review, along with the steps taken by the establishment’s management ensured no stone had been left unturned.
“You are going to have a great event that day,” he said. “Your staff has been trained and the fire marshal has responded to the questions that were presented when we kicked this down the road last time. I’m satisfied and I wish you and your staff a wonderful day that day because that whole area from 62nd Street down to 41st Street is going to be packed.”
Council Secretary Mary Knight said she had some misgivings, but her concerns had been addressed.
“I initially had the same feelings about closing the road and I respect Councilman Dare’s opinion.,” she said. “This has been a tough one for me, but I am going to vote for this because we want private enterprise to thrive and I trust that you’re going to do a good job.”
The council voted 5-0 with Council President Lloyd Martin absent and Dare abstaining to approve the road closure. The Board of License Commissioners signed off on the request on Wednesday.