The Delaware State Public Integrity Commission has issued an opinion stating that a Rehoboth Beach city commissioner who initiated a city crackdown against the use of outdoor patios by bars and restaurants may have violated a state conflict of interest law.
Several establishments that cater to a gay clientele, including the popular restaurant and bar Aqua Grill, were among the establishments targeted in a Labor Day weekend crackdown against late night use of outdoor patios. A city ordinance bars use of outdoor patios after 10 p.m. for drinking and after 11 p.m. for dining in accordance with a separate city noise ordinance. The ordinance had not been widely enforced prior to the crackdown.
Rehoboth police arrested the Aqua Grill’s co-owner during the crackdown, even though the establishment was exempt from the patio ordinance. The ordinance includes a “grandfather clause” exempting establishments in business prior to the enactment of the ordinance.
The city’s police chief joined other city officials and the head of the Rehoboth LGBT community center, Camp Rehoboth, in saying the crackdown was not aimed at gay establishments.
The PIC said in an advisory opinion that Rehoboth Commissioner Stan Mills should not have lobbied city officials to take action against establishments thought to be in violation of the patio ordinance because he owns a bed and breakfast business located next to one establishment with a patio — the gay bar Blue Moon.
According to Delmarva Now, an online news outlet, Mills walked around the town on Labor Day weekend last year to observe which establishments were violating the patio ordinance and reported to city officials that about a dozen of them were in violation. He then urged police to begin enforcing the ordinance, Delmarva Now reported.