*Boardwalk-inlet.JPG

The entrance of the Ocean City Boardwalk is shown near the inlet downtown. The area is next to the inlet lot and nearby beach where the Oceans Calling Festival was set up last year and this year the promoters are allowing merchants from below South Division to North Division streets to be part of the footprint. 

Plan to extend footprint sparks concerns

The promoters of this year’s Oceans Calling Festival are floating a new footprint that could include dozens of southern Boardwalk businesses

But proposed conditions, including requiring merchants to use a point-of-sale system and turn over a portion of their profits, do not sit well with many of the owners, some of whom met this week with city officials to air their concerns.

“There was a lot of questions asked,” Ocean City Director of Tourism and Business Development Tom Perlozzo said of a meeting held Wednesday morning with city staff and a cross-section of downtown business owners who operate near the festival’s designated location on the beach and inlet.

“There were concerns by the Boardwalk businesses, and unfortunately [festival promoter C3 Presents] wasn’t at the meeting,” Perlozzo continued. “What the next steps are going to be are to get C3 in front of the Boardwalk businesses. We have a list of questions, we’re going to find those answers, let C3 battle it out.”

The promoters of Oceans Calling, set Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, recently proposed expanding the festival’s footprint by fencing in Boardwalk businesses from below South Division to North Division streets.

“So rather having a fence run down one side it would allow people to flow in,” Perlozzo explained. “If there’s 50,000 people coming in, we want them to be able to take advantage of the Boardwalk businesses. So that was kind of the thoughts behind it.”

As part of the proposal , the promoters want merchants to use the concert’s point-of-sale system instead of their own and collect a percentage of their profits.

The plan struck a chord with many of the owners, prompting them to formulate the list of questions and concerns presented at Wednesday’s meeting.

According to the list, the merchants collectively do not want a point-of-sale system controlling their transactions, nor do they want the festival promoters to collect a percentage of their profits. They also said they do not want the festival to dictate their hours.

The owners want the downtown side streets and lots to remain open and available for parking and deliveries at least a day before the festival, more entrances and exits, security outside the footprint after the event, and to delay the installation of barriers until the last possible moment.

Ocean City Development Corporation Board President Kevin Gibbs, who owns and operates the Dough Roller on South Division Street, attended Wednesday’s meeting and said he thought it went well in terms of staff listening to the merchants’ concerns.

“Basically, they’re going to take everything we said and try to take it back to the promoter to say … we would really like to include the Boardwalk businesses but no point of sale or no percentage of sales,” he said. “Basically, work out some of the logistics and liability. Because there’s some liability issues there, too.”

He added that city staff, and now C3 officials, should be well aware that the point of sale is “a major problem” for the business owners.

Perlozzo said the Boardwalk merchants, if they can work out their concerns with the promoters, will have to be all in if they want to be part of the footprint.

“I think C3 will be reasonable with what they want to do," Perlozzo said. “… It’s really up the individual businesses and they’re going to have to come to a consensus. Because we’re not going to fence around them.”

He added that the promoters floated the same footprint concept for last year’s festival – which was canceled because of bad weather — but city staff turned it down. Perlozzo said they changed their minds for this year, though, after seeing how everything was going to play out last year with liquor control laws and the strain on police, fire and emergency personnel with the Boardwalk businesses outside the event footprint.

City officials intricately planned the details for Oceans Calling last year, which was scheduled for the same weekend and set to incorporate three stages in the inlet parking lot and on the nearby beach. Fencing was slated for setup around the area to ensure only paid attendees entered. The fenced-in area was also going to include vendor tents selling food, drinks and souvenirs.

This year’s Oceans Calling Festival is expected to attract an estimated 35,000 to 50,000 people per day to the venue.

The promoters announced Tuesday that the headliners for the festival will be Jack Johnson and Alanis Morissette on Friday, John Mayer on Saturday and The Lumineers closing out the event Sunday.

Other bands and artists set to perform throughout the three-day event include Third Eye Blind, Incubus, Weezer, Sheryl Crow, The Wallflowers, Gin Blossoms, Grace Potter, Dirty Heads, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Noah Kahan, Jimmy Eat World, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, O.A.R. and many more.

Tickets were set to go on pre-sale Thursday for those who signed up early.

Perlozzo and the promoters urged people who wanted tickets to log on and get them fast, as they expected the festival to sell out quickly with the number of popular, big-name performers in the lineup and last year’s cancelation still looming.

This story appears in the March 17, 2023 print edition of the OC Today.

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