Neighbors fight live music at terminal

Opponents: Ferry improperly allows bands at bar
Heath Gehrke, director of ferry operations for the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, points out where live music would be played at the On the Rocks bar and restaurant. The Delaware River and Bay Authority is seeking a variance from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to have live music at the On The Rocks outdoor bar. BY RYAN MAVITY
April 8, 2014

Neighbors of the ferry terminal in Lewes say its bar has for years improperly hosted live, outdoor music, and they want it to stop.

Residents of Port Lewes and other neighboring communities packed Sussex County Council chambers in Georgetown April 3 for a hearing on the Delaware River and Bay Authority’s request for a variance from the Delaware Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to allow music on the terminal’s outdoor patio.

The chief complaint from neighbors, many from the Port Lewes development, was that in 2013, the music was too loud, and the authority had no internal controls to limit noise.

During the hearing, James Walls, COO of the DRBA, said the ferry operated at an $11.4 million deficit last year, and live music is an important amenity to attract more customers. Walls said the terminal has had live music on the deck in one form or another for 10 years and has had only one complaint, in August 2013.

DRBA officials acknowledged the music was louder last year, because musicians set up so that sound projected towards the Port Lewes neighborhood. Heath Gehrke, director of ferry operations, said DRBA has conducted sound studies, and should the variance be granted, sound will be projected away from the surrounding neighborhoods. Shoukry Elnahal, engineer for DRBA, said the plan is to put decibel meters on each side of the terminal walls to monitor sound levels.

Still, the terminal’s neighbors scoffed at the notion that live music could eat into an $11.4 million deficit, and Jane Patchell, attorney for the Port Lewes residents, established that DRBA had been hosting live music on the deck without a variance for 10 years. Patchell also challenged the DRBA’s assertion that the terminal was a crossing and exempt from Lewes’ noise laws, despite the fact that the city leases the land to the DRBA.

Neighbors also complained that live music would go on late into the evening. Walls and Gehrke said the plan is to offer live music from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the summer. Residents testified in summer 2013, music would often go on until after 10 p.m. Gehrke said DRBA will respond to any complaints, and the ferry is trying to be good neighbors.

Residents in attendance also objected to Gehrke’s assertion that the terminal would like to host wedding receptions, should the variance be granted. Gehrke said DRBA has no intention of having parties until 1 a.m. and plans to close the On The Rocks bar by 10 p.m. Patchell asked Gehrke how hosting weddings fits into the ferry’s mission of providing transportation.

Col. Richard Arroyo of the DRBA police said the outdoor deck generally hosts family-oriented music and that police ensure appropriate behavior. He said no problems were reported during live music events.

Despite ferry officials’ assertions that they would be good neighbors, residents of Port Lewes and nearby Cape Shores and Pilot Point urged ABCC Commissioner John Cordrey to deny the variance request.

Vincent D’Anna of Pilot Point, said while the DRBA says it has good intentions, the variance is in perpetuity, and there are no guarantees that a different board will operate the same way. He said there are no protections for neighbors within the variance request.

Greg Berry of Port Lewes said the music at the terminal was noticeably loud last year and that locals assumed DRBA had a permit for the music. He said he did not understand why the ferry needed loud, amplified music outdoors while serving alcoholic beverages, a privilege granted to no other business in Lewes.

David Partridge said, “If you grant this, it represents a taking of our right to privacy and enjoyment.”

Speaking in favor of the variance were Lewes resident Barbara Warnell, who said the ferry is a big contributor to the city of Lewes, and Julian Karpov, a frequent customer at On The Rocks, who said he has never noticed the music being too loud.

Cordrey did not set a timetable for when he will make his decision on the matter.

Stingray application denied

Stingray Sushi Bar and Asian Latino Grill in Rehoboth Beach may have won its two-plus year legal battle for an outdoor patio, but the restaurant was dealt a blow by the ABCC when its application to serve alcohol on the patio was denied.

Stingray was supposed to have a building permit for the 720-square foot patio in place before it came for its permit. But it did not, and Cordrey denied the application.

Cordrey said Stingray could reapply when it had its building permit.

Stingray was denied a variance for the patio in 2011 and took its case to Delaware Superior Court, which ruled, after two years of litigation, that the restaurant was entitled to the patio. Rehoboth attorneys appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court, which affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

Stingray owner Darius Mansoory did not respond for comment.