Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – August 28, 2020

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – August 28, 2020

For some restaurants in the area, the ability to sell carryout liquor drinks with their food orders, or by themselves in some cases, has been a huge financial help. It was especially helpful last spring when carryout-only was enforced for a couple months.

Known as an ally of the liquor industry in general, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot yesterday discussed with the Restaurant Association of Maryland during a Zoom meeting his intentions to ask Gov. Larry Hogan to extend off-premise alcohol sales indefinitely. There is no time limit currently on this allowance, but it was largely thought it would end whenever Hogan lifted the state of emergency. While typically not allowed under nearly all licenses, restrictions were eased in mid-March when the lockdown began allowing restaurants and bars to sell alcohol, including bottles and packaged good as well as mixed drinks, with carryout orders and delivery. Franchot said he would like to give the General Assembly an opportunity to make the relaxed liquor sales rules permanent.

“These are sensible reforms, I believe, to Maryland’s outdated alcohol statutes, and I believe these temporary changes should be made permanent,” he said. “It’s why I’ve asked Governor Hogan to allow these changes to remain in place through the 2021 legislative session, which would give the Maryland General Assembly an opportunity to memorialize these changes into law.” Franchot added, “This is just one of many strategies we must adopt to keep this sector up and running. Every restaurant, bar or tavern that closes has a ripple effect on suppliers, vendors, business partners, employees and the larger community that benefits from their presence. Let’s be aggressive and innovative here.”

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It’s going to take something drastic to truly rev up south Worcester County tourism. Whether a riverboat at a price tag of $500,000 is the answer is a big unknown. It’s a risky proposition, and more information is surely needed on whether the returns will be worth the investment. In other places, riverboats have been used for gambling trips, special events like proms and fundraisers and dinner cruises. All these excursions would come with a user fee and could potentially bring people to Snow Hill and Pocomoke who would normally never venture so far from the beach.

Though the commissioners had concerns, including whether this operation should be run by a private enterprise, it was encouraging to see them not shoot down the concept entirely. It needs more study, but it will take something huge to bring commercial life to the south end of the county. As Tom Perlozzo, the county’s director of recreation and parks, tourism, and economic development, said, “The riverboat stern wheeler concept checks all the boxes… It’s ownable, it’s unique, it can advance the mission of the southern end of the county, it’s definitely buzzworthy.”

It’s certainly worth a deeper dive.

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The Ocean City Mayor and Council believes $65,000 a year for a lobbyist to work Annapolis lawmakers is a worthy investment. This decision came last week and in the same month the council told the police department it could not use available dollars in its budget to purchase a mule vehicle for the Boardwalk. This council continues to amaze with its inconsistency and strange votes.

Ocean City is well represented in Annapolis with two lawmakers calling the resort home in Delegate Wayne Hartman and Senator Mary Beth Carozza. These are unnecessary dollars being spent. City officials say they are concerned about finances associated with an economic downtown from COVID-19, but they are guilty of doubletalk and insincerity nearly every week. If they were truly concerned about money, this contract renewal would have been debated and discussed. Instead, the council voted unanimously with little comment from the typically verbose lot.

Additionally, an argument could clearly be made the funding given to the lobbyist has not borne enough results in recent years. In extending his contract for another year, city officials said the lobbyist has been a huge help with efforts to oppose current plans for larger wind turbines off the coast as well as with toughening a special event zone bill. I would argue there has been little success to marvel over with these efforts. Ocean City has struck out on every single aspect of the wind farm process, including this week when the state’s Public Service Commission said the larger turbines were fine offshore. Additionally, the special event zone bill was a local courtesy bill the first time it was introduced and easily passed. When the city returned the next year to pass a more restrictive bill, it got nowhere fast. It took two years for the legislature to approve those tougher measures. This is hardly money well spent.

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The Berlin Town Council meeting set for Aug. 25 did not happen this week as planned. A message posted on the town’s social media account said, “This meeting has been canceled due to a lack of agenda.”

While it’s hilarious on one front, I find it difficult to believe there are no matters the town appointed officials have to discuss with elected officials. The council only meets every other week. The timing was interesting, as a few political hopefuls in October’s election jumped on the matter on social media and used it as an example for change.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.