SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Board of License Commissioners this week approved plans for Pier 23, the restaurant set to replace Mad Fish on Ocean City’s commercial harbor.
On Wednesday, the Board of License Commissioners (BLC) approved a request from representative Cole Taustin to build and make changes to the premises of Pier 23. BLC members praised Taustin for his efforts to appease the restaurant’s neighbors, who objected to prior plans.
“From a standpoint of what I‘ve known the place to be in the last 30 years, I don’t know how he can do any more,” said William Esham, BLC chairman.
Taustin has been working toward the creation of Pier 23 since Mad Fish, its predecessor, was destroyed in a fire in August 2019. After getting plans for a new building at the waterfront location approved last year, COVID-19 forced Taustin to reconsider his facility. As a result, he developed an open-air concept made up of shipping containers and sought a Class D license, which only requires 50 enclosed seats, as opposed to the Class B license the restaurant has held for decades.
When neighbors objected strongly to those plans at the February meeting of the BLC, Taustin went back to the drawing board again. What he proposed this week consisted of an enclosed 70-seat restaurant facility as well as an outdoor container area.
“It is an outdoor food venue with indoor seating, an indoor bar,” he said. Where buildings don’t block sound on the lot, Taustin has proposed acoustical fencing to keep noise down for the neighbors. He also has plans for “short throw” speakers, which don’t project sound far, and has purchased a sound meter for his staff to use. In addition, live music will not occur past 7 p.m.
“When I was here back in February I took everything to heart,” he said. “I heard the comments that were made.”
Brendan Hanley, owner of the neighboring business Pure Lure, spoke in support of the project and what he considered the family atmosphere it would create.
“It’ll be great for our business,” he said.
David Rivello, president of Marsh Harbour’s homeowners association, said he personally felt Taustin had done all he could to address neighbors’ concerns but pointed out some community members were still leery of his plans. Marsh Harbour resident Horace Wahl offered similar comments.
“They have doubts decibel ratings are going to be upheld,” Wahl said, adding that he applauded Taustin for trying to work with the homeowners.
Esham said it appeared Taustin had done his best to accommodate community concerns. The board voted 3-0 to approve his request for changes at the South Harbor Road site.