Franchise’s extension for 25 years secures Boardwalk tradition

(Nov. 29, 2019) Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan revealed Monday that the City Council will give Charles “Buddy” Jenkins a 25-year extension of the inlet pier franchise that will earn city government $9.1 million.

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Charles "Buddy" Jenkins said the pier franchise renewal would allow him to continue creating fond memories and nostalgia for Ocean City residents and visitors through his amusement park Jolly Roger at the Pier and Thrasher's French Fries. 

Jenkins, whose companies own Jolly Roger at the Pier, Jolly Roger on 30th Street and Thrasher’s French Fries on the Boardwalk among other things, will retain use of the site where the pier amusements reside from March 31, 2029 and through 2054.

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Mayor Rick Meehan announced on Monday that City Council would approve its pier franchise renewal for 25 years. Meehan said Charles "Buddy" Jenkins, the current franchise holder, has dedicated his time and money to keep the inlet pier pristine and open for generations of Ocean City visitors and residents. 

“It’s [the pier] one of those iconic structures in Ocean City, and I think that it’s extremely important that it remains an amusement,” Meehan said. “Ocean City has visitors who come back year after year, generation after generation, and they notice when things change.”

Jenkins, through his Sinepuxent Pier and Improvement Company, will pay $1 million up front for the franchise renewal, and then pay $100,000 annually until 2029. 

In 2029, the annual fee will increase to $250,000, which will be compounded by 3 percent each year. This means by 2054, the annual payment will grow to $508,198.54. 

All payments from the franchisee will be dedicated to funding Boardwalk repair and maintenance, which is slated to cost the city $9.2 million. 

This will be a huge sigh of relief for city leaders who have been scrambling to find a source of revenue for the repairs, which they vocalized at the Strategic Planning Update meeting held on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the Ocean City convention center on 40th Street. 

Jenkins has held the pier franchise since April 4, 1979, and has transformed the inlet pier it into one of the most recognized symbols of Ocean City. 

To Jenkins, his priority was keeping tradition here in Ocean City, and giving a sense of nostalgia to those who return each summer.

He said Jolly Roger and Thrasher’s French Fries were key to those fond memories, and that through the franchise extension he would be able to plan for improvements, additions and costly maintenance. 

“In order to continue [business], we have been addressing the pier franchise for well over a year,” Jenkins said. “They [city leaders] see the need to have this continuing relationship that cannot be duplicated by any other company or individual.” 

City officials created a small committee to work with Jenkins in order to come to an agreement for the franchise renewal. 

This committee was composed of Councilwoman Mary Knight and Councilmen John Gehrig and Dennis Dare. 

The three councilmembers began negotiations with Jenkins in August 2018, met with him 11 more times throughout an 18-month time frame and then came to an agreement this year. 

Jenkins and Meehan said the agreement benefits both parties. 

For its part, the city gets income that will be dedicated to Boardwalk repairs and renovations, thus alleviating a huge burden to taxpayers who otherwise would have had to take on those costs. 

In addition, Jenkins has fronted maintenance and repair costs to the inlet pier for decades, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last five years alone.

“We’ve been very fortunate that the pier has been kept in absolutely excellent conditions,” Meehan said. “…In just recent years 2013, 2014 and 2016 a portion of the pier was destroyed, and in each instance, at his expense, according to the franchise, Mr. Jenkins immediately repaired the fishing pier and had it open again for the summer season.” 

“The cost of maintaining the pier operation due to climatic conditions is huge, and without proper planning, through the extension, it would be very difficult,” Jenkins said.

Although the pier franchise has been expensive to maintain, Jenkins said it has been worth every penny to operate his businesses there and to continue serving generations of Ocean City residents and visitors. 

“I’ve always believed, as a result of my mother and father, that you can always make things better,” Jenkins said. “So every day I work with that task in mind … [and] I have always done what is necessary for Ocean City.” 

Members of Ocean City Council will vote to pass the franchise renewal on first reading next Monday, Dec. 2, and will formally approve it on second reading the following week. 

For further details on the franchise renewal, go to http://oceancitymd.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx and click on the agenda packet link for the Monday, Dec. 2 meeting.

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