Live music approved at ferry terminal

Restriction to three days disappoints DRBA
August 26, 2014

The Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal is permitted to offer live entertainment at its On The Rocks outdoor bar but only three times per year.

In a long-awaited decision by Delaware Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner John Cordrey, the ferry terminal may host entertainment, but it  is limited to three days per year chosen by the terminal’s managers, the Delaware River and Bay Authority.

Cordrey’s decision states the dates must be around the holidays of Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day, with music no later than 11 p.m. and with advance written notice to the ABCC of the three dates.

Heath Gehrke, director of ferry operations for DRBA, said the decision is disappointing, but DRBA has made no decision as to how to move forward.

“We’re not happy with it,” he said.

Appeals of the decision must be filed within 30 days.

DRBA requested permission to have live music on the outdoor deck during the summer from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Gehrke said the terminal had done this for a decade, with one complaint about noise during that time. This year, the terminal featured live entertainment indoors, but Gehrke said the effect is not the same. On The Rocks had a good summer despite having no music, Gehrke said, but DRBA believes it could have been better with live entertainment.

“It does have an impact on the performance of the bar and grill,” he said.

Cordrey agreed with DRBA’s assertion that seasonal live music would make the ferry more welcoming, attract customers and raise revenue. At an April hearing on the case, Jim Walls, chief operations officer for DRBA, said the ferry posted an $11.5 million loss in 2013.

Cordrey's ruling notes that DRBA had been hosting live entertainment outdoors with external speakers since 2001, all without a permit.  Cordrey attributed this oversight to management turnover and disorganized record-keeping. He recommended DRBA ensure that going forward, it is in compliance with the law.

Cordrey’s ruling states concerns about noise from residents of neighboring Port Lewes and Pilot Point are mitigated by the terminal’s on-site police force, family-friendly choice of acts, installation of sound monitoring devices and the retention of a sound expert to monitor the noise. Cordrey denied DRBA’s request for external speakers, saying DRBA showed no evidence that speakers would bring in any income.

As for what DRBA might do, Gehrke said the terminal could go forward with no music or have some other entertainment. He said DRBA officials are exploring their options.

Attorney Jane Patchell, who represented several of the neighbors who protested the terminal’s variance request, could not be reached for comment. At the April hearing, neighbors said the music was much louder in 2013 than it had been in previous years, and they disputed the notion that live music would put any dent in the ferry’s operating deficit.