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Sussex planners deny Ellendale nightclub after applicant no-shows

Route 113 bar was seeking to change use
October 7, 2019

A routine public hearing by Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission on a proposed nightclub in Ellendale turned bizarre after the applicant failed to show up.

The commission was set to discuss an ordinance to grant a conditional use to Thomas and Judy Munce to allow for nightclub-type activities and an electronic message center to be located on a 3-acre parcel near the intersection of Route 113 and Route 16. 

But when the commission asked for the applicant to speak, neither the Munces nor the other person named on the request, Napolean Hernandez, rose to speak. 

County Planning and Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell said two letters had been received in opposition. Cornwell said one letter, from Theodore Wallace, raised concerns about the use and safety of the area. Jerry and Karen Brittingham also sent in a letter in opposition. The current conditional use for the property as a tavern and package store was granted in 1979. It operates as the Getaway Lounge and Liquors, but previously was known as One 13 Tavern and Liquors. The letters expressed concerns about crime in the area; in June, fights broke out at the bar during a musical performance. When the fights spilled outside the bar, a 38-year-old man was shot. He was treated with serious, but nonlife-threatening injuries. 

The bar’s owners had come before the commission before, seeking to amend their conditional use to serve food. Cornwell said that application was denied.

At the Sept. 26 public hearing, confusion reigned among the commission and its legal counsel when a woman identifying herself as the applicant’s sister-in-law came to the podium. She did not state her name, but said she had come to speak in opposition to the request.

The commission and its attorney, Vince Robertson, asked if she was speaking on behalf of the applicant. When she answered in the negative, Robertson told her to sit tight until after the applicant had given their presentation. 

When the Munces or Hernandez, or any other representative on their behalf, did not come forward to speak, the commission rules dictated that the application be denied for lack of a record.

The commission postponed the vote until after the end of public hearings, but still no one showed, so the application was unanimously denied.