(April 23, 2021) A permanent tiki bar with 32 seats and an aesthetically pleasing design is coming to Beach Barrels Pub in North Ocean City — as long as plans include a set of previously waived parking requirements.
Members of the Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission made an overruling of sorts this week to a March 25 Board of Zoning Appeals decision to waive six parking spaces for the planned open-air, fenced-in space in front of the 132nd bar and restaurant, which will replace a temporary one set up last year to accommodate covid restrictions.
The code requires seven parking spaces with the added capacity, but after a contentious hearing, zoning board members opted to require only one handicap accessible space and waive the other six.
“We realize that parking and traffic is everything on this project and we addressed it before the (zoning appeals) board and the board accepted it. And there were opponents,” Beach Barrels’ attorney Brian Cosby said during the planning meeting.
He added that the opposing testimony was presented well and the appeals board members took all of that information into consideration when making their decision.
Planning commissioners, though, had a different take.
“I’ve got a problem with us giving permanent restaurant space taking up parking at this point in this covid program,” Commissioner Peck Miller said during the planning meeting. “We’re going to go through December with temporary outdoor dining and we have a lot of issues to address as far as parking and outdoor dining down the road.”
Commissioner Palmer Gillis added that he thinks that they would be “opening up Pandora’s box” by waiving the spaces.
Miller also said other options exist, such as putting the tiki bar on the roof or to the side of the building. Cosby and architect Rene Robert Mueller were leery of the suggestions because of potential neighbors’ concerns with the roof idea and the lack of exposure with moving the addition to the side of the building.
“The reason it’s being done is because it has worked for the last year. There have been no parking issues …,” Cosby said. “Like the comprehensive plan says, if we’re going to be an entertaining town, people want to eat outside. That’s the future ...People want outdoor dining and we should provide it in a nice atmosphere and this is a really nice atmosphere.”
Commission Chairwoman Pam Greer Buckley agreed that the design is attractive, but the parking issue still exists.
“The concern is the parking,” she said. “And we have not had the cooperation to get a complete working overhaul in Ocean City for 25, 30 years.”
Still, the commissioners tried to work with the applicants.
They suggested adding spaces on the side of the building and other spots on the property. Some said they could accept adding four instead of six, or allowing the spaces to be smaller if they are still usable.
Commissioner Chris Shanahan also pointed out that denying the project based on the parking spaces may not be the best course of action.
“I think as a board, as a city, we should try to be helping these businesses that are struggling,” he said. “Ocean City had a good summer last year but who knows … The restaurant business is getting hit hard, they can’t find employees, they are trying to do their best to stay in business. I think as a board we should take that into consideration.
In the end, planning commissioners unanimously voted to require Beach Barrels’ representatives to find a way to add six “functional” spaces back into the plans. By functional, they mean spaces that may not necessarily meet the full space requirements, but can still accommodate vehicles.
Cosby and Mueller said that they could find a way to meet that requirement.
With that, and an approval Wednesday from the county’s board of license commisioners that rewuires a 10 p.m. curfew on the new oudoor space, the projct can move forward and should be finished by summer.