OCEAN CITY – Local officials say a bill making its way through the General Assembly will allow for safer alcohol sales at large special events in Ocean City.
On Monday, officials with the Town of Ocean City and Worcester County Government came before the Economic Matters Committee in Annapolis to show their support for House Bill 113, which would establish a promoter’s license for selling beer, wine and liquor at special events held in the resort. In his testimony this week, Mayor Rick Meehan said the legislation would change the way alcohol could be sold at large festivals and concerts.
“The town strongly desires to continue to grow tourism through its special events and attract first-class performances and festivals to our area,” he said. “The town, however, equally desires to have a vehicle to allow for the service and sale of alcohol in the safest way possible. This bill accomplishes both goals.”
As proposed, House Bill 113 – filed by Del. Wayne Hartman and cross-filed in the Senate by Sen. Mary Beth Carozza – would authorize the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners (BLC) to issue a promoter’s license to for-profit organizations wishing to sell and serve beer, wine and liquor at special events, provided that the event is located within the corporate limits of Ocean City, held on town-owned property and approved by the Ocean City Police Department and the Mayor and Council. The bill also establishes a license fee of $5,000.
“Presently in Ocean City, the only way alcohol can be sold at a special event is to have a local nonprofit organization purchase and serve the alcohol,” Meehan explained. “As the town continues to grow its special events, and as the attendance at these events continues to grow, the current manner in which alcohol can be sold at these events simply is not best practice.”
While the nonprofit model for selling and serving alcohol will continue to be used for small and mid-sized events such as Sunfest, officials say the new promoter’s license would be used at larger events such as the professional bull riding rodeo and the Oceans Calling Festival, which is slated to return this fall.
“This bill ensures that the service and sale of alcohol is conducted in a professional manner through promoters who are accustomed to serving large crowds,” Meehan said. “This bill further allows the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners to adapt further rules and regulations that they may see fit in the issuance of this license.”
City Manager Terry McGean said such licenses are not unique, as Frederick and Alleghany counties and the City of Baltimore all have similar promoter’s licenses.
“The ability to attract these larger outdoor events is critical to our goal of expanding our season,” he said. “The longer season means more full-time jobs and greater economic impact. We estimated that the Oceans Calling concert alone, which is expected to draw 30,000 visitors per night to Ocean City this October, will generate $32 million in economic impact for the state.”
McGean asked the committee to forward the bill with a favorable report.
“HB 113 is supported by the Worcester County Commissioners and the Worcester Board of License Commissioners,” he added. “It will ensure the safe serving and consumption of alcohol and provide a positive economic impact to the state.”
Worcester County Commissioner Joe Mitrecic noted the difficulties of having nonprofit organizations serve alcohol at larger special events in Ocean City.
“As the events become larger and more frequent, it will be harder and harder for our service club volunteers to man these events,” he said. “As we all know, the average age of these types of nonprofit organizations is not going down. To staff a two-, three- or four-day event that could run 10 to 12 hours each day could take a tremendous amount of man hours and volunteers.”
He said the commissioners supported the proposed promoter’s license, as it allowed for the safer sale of alcohol.
“The commissioners also feel moving forward with this bill will enhance safety at these events,” he added. “Professional servers who are TAM-trained will be better suited to recognize patrons who are perhaps underaged, over-inebriated or presenting false identification.”
Mitrecic pointed out such large-scale events within the resort would require the approval of the Mayor and County and Ocean City Police Department, while the proposed promoter’s license would need the approval of the BLC.
“The Worcester County Commissioners feel these types of checks and balances will only enhance Ocean City’s events and attendees’ experiences moving forward,” he said. “Growing tourism and attracting top-notch festivals and performances benefit not only Ocean City economically, but the entire county. This bill will allow alcoholic beverages to be served in the safest manner possible at these events.”
Testimony for the bill will also be heard before the Senate Finance Committee at a hearing scheduled for Feb. 24.