Popular Nightspots Struggle with New Rules

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Bars and nightclubs at the beach are having their own challenges. That’s Bryan Derrickson, on the right, talking with two agents from the Delaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement (DATE) this past Friday night. Initially, Rehoboth Beach police came to his Conch Island Key West Bar and Grill around 6 p.m. to discuss the crowd that had gathered outside his bar. He had opened the bar’s windows so they could hear the musicians perform live. He admitted he also had provided barstools for patrons because he says the city has yet to provide sufficient benches. A bench was placed there last week but they need more, he said.

“If you don’t push back, you are out of business… I got to do something,” he said, as he is trying to keep his staff and musicians at least partially paid while he is allowed to sell food and drink for carryout. Once the customers leave, he added, they need to be responsible for where they eat and drink.

Derrickson was a full-time Rehoboth Beach police officer in the 1990’s and his father, Donald, was a well-known pro-business city commissioner.

On Sunday, this statement was posted on the Conch Island Facebook page indicating that the nightclub has agreed to “take a step back” recognizing the “value in a truce.”

Derrickson fears that the June 1 reopen date will do little to ease the financial burden on restaurants as the 30 percent-capacity limit is too restrictive. “When you are sent to prison, at least you know your release date,” Derrickson points out. Here we have no idea when this crisis might end!

Conch Island was not the only Rehoboth Beach nightspot to get a visit from officials this past Friday night. They also investigated a private event held at Aqua. “Both establishments were cooperative and took appropriate actions to ensure compliance,” says RBPD’s Lt. Jaime Riddle.

“Neither establishment was cited,” he added. “We understand that business owners are growing frustrated and are trying to do all they can to bring in revenue,” Lt. Riddle pointed out. “As an agency we are doing all we can to work with them to ensure their actions are consistent with what is allowable, but most importantly ensure public safety,” he said.

Major Kevin Jones, DATE’s deputy chief, said Saturday that his agents “met with the owners/management of Conch Island and Aqua and issued warnings as they related to congregating and/or consumption on the premises… We made similar contacts at Nalu in Dewey Beach and Harpoon Hannas in Fenwick Island. No charges were filed,” he added.

On Friday, Dewey Beach commissioners unanimously approved an expansion of premises plan that would allow town restaurants to use parking or other private property for outdoor seating starting on June 1 with state approval. “Dewey has something for everyone — beach, bay, dogs, family, restaurants, music — and it’s important the restaurants survive this pandemic,” said Comm. David Moskowitz. “Hopefully this helps the restaurants financially while maintaining balance,” he added. Mayor Paul Kuhns said Monday that Rehoboth Beach commissioners are currently working on a similar plan to expand outdoor seating possibilities for restaurants.

“We are all working hard to try and do the right thing as to not impede the process of getting back open full time,” says Steve “Monty” Montgomery of The Starboard. “The ABCC/DATE has been very supportive in stopping by several of our businesses to help explain the rules from the Governor’s order on carry-out alcoholic beverages. They, like us, all want to see this continue as it’s a huge help to most people’s carry-out sales. While no full-time restaurant can pay many bills or make much of a living doing only carry-out, it’s important in that it helps some of our employees get back to work. They are who we all care about very much as business owners. People have been tipping heavily. That’s been appreciated by most every restaurant employee I know working these past several weeks,” Montgomery added.