SNOW HILL – A north Ocean City restaurant will be able to expand its operations despite concerns from neighbors.
The Worcester County Board of License Commissioners (BLC) approved plans from Beach Barrels in north Ocean City for a permanent deck where its temporary outdoor seating — allowed because of COVID-19 — has been located. Because of concerns from neighbors, the board mandated a 10 p.m. closure for the outdoor seating area.
“I’m trying to give this gentleman a chance to crawl before he walks,” said William Esham, BLC chair.
Attorney Mark Cropper told the board Beach Barrels was seeking approval to install a garage door leading to a permanent deck to be located where its temporary outdoor seating was. The 962-foot garden deck was approved by the Ocean City Planning Commission Tuesday.
Beach Barrels’ Ray McGrath said the restaurant had a more mature crowd and had seen fewer customers coming in because they were concerned about COVID-19.
“Some customers I haven’t seen for a year because they’re afraid to leave the house,” he said. “COVID-19 has changed the way businesses operate. This deck is making it safer.”
One of the restaurant’s bartenders said customers that had come in and used the temporary outdoor seating because it made them feel safer.
“People love it,” she said.
A resident of nearby Sundowner Mobile Park said most people in his community looked forward to a permanent deck being installed.
“We look at this as an improvement of what’s already been in existence the past year,” he said.
Howard Pollack, however, said that he and several other residents of Braemar Towers were worried about the potential for noise with the addition of a permanent deck.
“They’re going to be drinking until closing,” he said. “That is the concern—that noise that’s going to continue after dark.”
He said that while McGrath painted Beach Barrels as a family bar its website referred to it as “North Ocean City’s premier location for live music and specialty drinks.”
“We run the risk of it becoming a mini Seacrets,” Pollack said. “We don’t want that.”
Randy Witter, a member of the board at the nearby Angelfish, said that owners there had been worried about the Beach Barrels proposal but he believed their issues had been resolved when McGrath explained he’d close the garage door during live music. Witter said it was likely the deck would be loud with patrons drinking.
“You really can’t control that,” he said.
Esham pointed out that the addition of the deck itself had been approved by Ocean City’s zoning authorities. He said the most the BLC could do was prohibit the service of alcoholic beverages on the deck.
Thomas Coates, the board’s attorney, referenced nine letters submitted in support of Beach Barrels and 111 letters in opposition to the proposal.
“The opposition letters did reference noise coming from the premises in the past few years,” he said.
Esham said the board, however, had no complaints on file for the location. He added most of the letters had been written in February and those who sent them might not be aware of the specifics of McGrath’s current proposal. He added, however, the restaurant had to coexist with its neighbors and suggested the deck be closed at 10 p.m. His peers agreed and voted 3-0 to approve the deck plans.