For the second time in five months, but maybe not for the last time, greyhounds have been denied use of the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center.
By a 4-3 vote, during a May 18 meeting, commissioners denied a request by Greyhounds Reach the Beach officials that would have allowed seminars, vendors and people with their dogs inside the convention center throughout the 4-day event.
During a Sept. 11 workshop, Commissioner Lisa Schlosser renewed the discussion. She said since the May decision, Reach the Beach has moved almost all of its events to Dewey, and on the event website there are no downtown Rehoboth hotels listed as preferred places to stay.
This is a shoulder-season event, said Schlosser. Between hotels and other businesses, the event is expected to bring in more than $200,000 to Rehoboth businesses, she said.
Schlosser also pointed out a decrease in hotel occupancy rates in Rehoboth this year as a reason to allow the greyhound event. According to information found on the chamber’s website, from January to mid-August, the number of weekend rooms rented in 2018 is down by about 5,000 rooms when compared to 2017; the number of mid-week room rentals during the same period is also down by about 100 rooms.
Schlosser then called for the issue to be voted on during the commissioners meeting Friday, Sept. 21.
Commissioner Kathy McGuiness supported allowing greyhounds in the civic center. She said the city’s animal issues committee and tourism committee both voted in favor of allowing the event prior to the commissioners’ denial. Commissioners are damaging the community by denying this event, she said.
Commissioner-elect Dick Byrne is the chair of the city’s animal issues committee. He spoke in favor of allowing the greyhounds, noting the committee voted in favor of allowing use of the convention center with four caveats – the kitchen is closed; no food is sold; there’s a cleanup crew on duty at all times; and the program would be evaluated when completed.
Mayor Paul Kuhns said he allowed Schlosser to bring up the issue at the workshop because he thought she might present information that could change the minds of the commissioners who voted against it in May. He said he didn’t see any information that changed his mind.
Commissioners Patrick Gossett, Toni Sharp and Stan Mills also remained unswayed in their no votes.
At one point, Gossett called into question the places that allow dogs that Schlosser cited, which included Madison Square Garden in New York, Quillen Arena at Delaware State Fair, Wicomico Civic Center in Salisbury, Md., and the Ocean City Convention Center. The Rehoboth Beach Convention Center is not a large arena like these, he said.
Gossett also said if the city were to allow this group, as a public entity, the city would also have to allow other groups. The city can’t say yes to this dog group and not another, he said.
Byrne and fellow Commissioner-elect Pat Coluzzi will be sworn in at the Sept. 21 meeting. Schlosser said she would bring the issue up again afterward.
Kuhns said, as mayor, he makes the agenda, and he is operating under the assumption that unless one of the commissioners who voted no has a change of heart, the issue isn’t going to be put back on the agenda for a vote.
Defending her position and Schlosser’s position, McGuiness said she has been on the board longer than anyone, and she wasn’t aware of any set rules for how issues are brought forward.
“This will not go away,” McGuiness said.