(Oct. 4, 2019) While some business owners did see increased profits during the unsanctioned H2Oi weekend, several agreed that the money was not worth the trouble.

“Business in town was definitely impacted, yet it was a terrible waste of manpower and money,” Fish Tales restaurant owner Shawn Harman said. “... If you want to look at it as a strict monetary thing, it’s not worth the hassle.”

Car enthusiasts seemed especially fond of gas stations, and crowds of participants could be seen loitering in gas station parking lots.

Council President Lloyd Martin, who owns 7-Eleven gas stations uptown, said his businesses saw increased profits, but avoided rowdier groups as much of the action took place downtown.

Hotels and rental businesses also benefited from the influx of guests, but faced several issues.

“In terms of hotel occupancy, there were many folks who did fill or were close to filling — but, those who had Winefest guests had many Winefest patrons who left early,” said Susan Jones, executive director of the Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association.

Jones said Winefest guests flooded her emails with complaints, and that it was unfair for a few “bad apples” to ruin the experience of other guests.

Councilman Matt James, whose family operates hotels and rental units, said the problem was not only about money, but image.

James said H2Oi participants made up around 60 percent of his guests, but said he worried that guests would begin to associate Ocean City with the faux H2Oi crowd, and stop coming to the resort.

“I was young once, and I did dumb things ... but we need to come to some understanding with the people who come here,” Harman said. “I’m sure that not all of them were bad guys, but the ones that were ruined it for everybody. It’s not the kind of clientele that we would typically care to have.”


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