FENWICK ISLAND – A local developer is seeking a liquor license for his new hotel, but some Fenwick residents are voicing their opposition to his requests.
On March 2, developer Spiro Buas applied with the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner (ABCC) for a hotel liquor license with a patio permit and a variance to permit live entertainment, external speakers, a paging system and a wet bar on the patio at his property on Coastal Highway.
In 2018, Buas demolished the aging Sands Motel – which he purchased in 2015 – and began building a new hotel in its place. Fenwick Shores, a Tapestry Collection by Hilton, will be a 65-room boutique hotel.
To allow alcohol service for hotel guests, Buas is seeking a hotel liquor license, which would encompass the entire property.
Some residents, however, took issue with the developer’s request for a variance for live entertainment, speakers, paging system and a patio wet bar.
Residents Voice Opposition
In a teleconference of the Fenwick Island Town Council last Friday, residents voiced their opposition to outdoor live entertainment at the hotel.
While the town has no jurisdiction over the issuance of liquor licenses, officials were quick to add that the town did not allow outdoor live entertainment without approval from the council.
“We’ve gotten in writing from Spiro that he will not have live outdoor music without having the permission of the council and the town,” Mayor Gene Langan said.
Town Manager Terry Tieman said the town has also notified the ABCC of the town’s ordinance.
“That was a concern,” she said, “and we addressed that concern.”
Jacque Napolitano, who lives directly behind the new hotel, said she was still concerned about the hotel’s ability to have recorded music, external speakers and a paging system.
“Anyone could be playing a radio or playing recorded music,” Tieman replied. “As long as it’s not interfering with the surrounding area, it’s not a problem, but we do have a noise ordinance. Like you would do with anybody playing loud music … you need to pick up the phone and call the police, and the police will address it.”
Resident Peter Frederick noted the town’s ordinance did not permit a bar in any outside service area and questioned why the town did not enforce its ordinance when the developer submitted his plans.
Town officials, however, said they sent the developer’s plans for an outdoor bar to the town attorney for review. Councilman Bill McCain said the town’s ordinance specifically addresses bars under the heading “restaurants,” but not “hotels.”
“As the bar is an amenity of the hotel, the town has no control over where that bar would be located …,” he said. “Everything that has come up on this hotel we have passed it by our town attorney, and as councilmembers we might not agree with the town attorney, but we accept her guidance and interpretation of the town code.”
Several residents questioned if the solicitor was acting in the town’s best interests.
“In all my career, the attorney was always advising me or the company on what the interpretations were. The attorney was working for me or for my company, it was not the company or me working for the attorney …,” resident Nadia Butler said. “I hear the town saying we have to do whatever the attorney says … What I see happening is that the town has decided they want to do things, have the bar outside and have the hotel go above the height limit, and the attorney is helping them find ways to do that.”
Resident Natalie Magdeburger, an attorney, agreed.
“If they don’t have the right attorney that is willing to advocate for the town, they need to find an attorney who will …,” she said.
Developer Offers Explanation
In an interview this week, Buas said he was aware of residents’ concerns surrounding the liquor license application, but wanted to offer some clarification.
“I’m really trying to do the right thing,” he said.
In a letter sent to the town on Wednesday, Buas said the public notice for the liquor license application had to include certain language. He noted, however, that he has no plans for any outdoor live entertainment.
“As a hotel with an event room we may, on occasion, have live entertainment for the event or maybe a piano player in our lobby,” he wrote. “We also anticipate having light background music in our lobby, our front desk area, our front entrance, our exercise room and our pool area. In addition, we plan on having TV’s with remote speakers in our lobby, our lobby bar and at our pool food and beverage area. Because of these reasons and because a liquor license encompasses the entire hotel property, those items had to become part of the public notice.”
Buas said he has voluntarily requested a restriction on the hotel’s liquor license that would require the hotel to obtain the town council’s permission for any outdoor live music or entertainment.
“Having this license will allow the town some control,” he said.
Buas added that his operation as a high-end, boutique hotel was dependent on the approval of a hotel liquor license.
“That Tapestry brand requires a food and beverage package …,” he said. “If I don’t get my liquor licenses, I don’t get my Tapestry brand. It could turn into a Days Inn. Do they want that quality of hotel?”
Letters of Opposition, Support Sought
Individuals opposing Buas’ application will have an opportunity to provide their objections in writing to the ABCC, according to the public notice.
“The Commissioner must receive one or more documents containing a total of at least 10 signatures of residents or property owners located within 1 mile of the premises or in any incorporated areas located within 1 mile of the premises …,” the notice reads. “Failure to file such a protest may result in the Commissioner considering the application without further notice, input or hearing.”
Buas said he is seeking letters of support, which can be filled out on the Fenwick Shores website.
“I enjoy the atmosphere in Fenwick and hope to remain a part of the community for a very long time,” he wrote in his letter to the town. “As always, I’ve greatly appreciated your support, but I would like to ask that you please lend me your support one more time in reference to my liquor license application, by filling out this online letter. It would be beneficial to Fenwick Shores if you could write a personal note within the letter, as to why you support the application.”