After about 16 months of discussion, debate and squabbling, the Rehoboth Beach Board of Commissioners agreed on Jan. 20, by a vote of 6-0, on new regulations regarding patio hours. Voting for the first time was newly appointed Commissioner Patrick Gossett, who is gay.
Commissioner Stan Mills who initiated the complaints that resulted in a raid of several establishments, including Cloud 9 and Aqua, in September, 2010, recused himself on the recommendation of the Delaware Public Integrity Committee who felt he used his elected status to bring about the raids, which led to the arrest of several bar owners who were cited for infractions.
The vote allows patios to stay open as long as the inside of the establishment remains open. In most cases, this means 1 a.m. Up until a temporary freeze was put in effect in the spring, restaurants with patios could only serve alcohol on their patios until 10 p.m. and patrons had to leave by 11. In addition, it was agreed that there would be an enforcement officer in place who would talk to violators.
Carol Everhart, CEO and president of the local Chamber of Commerce, said, “the experiment of changing the hours of patios, which we wanted worked. Revenues increased because restaurant patios were open.” Everhart and others at the meeting praised the work of the enforcement officer.
Still unresolved is the noise issue, which early on was linked to the patio issue. The commissioners have been trying to determine how best to handle regulations on noise. A number of commissioners felt that use of the phrase “clearly audible” should be sufficient, but others have argued that there should be a clearer definition, such as determining where to measure the noise. However, because there were only five noise violations noted this past summer, the issue is not considered as crucial as in the past.
Earlier in that meeting, Gossett, who previously served as commissioner from 2004-7, was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Commission. Gossett becomes the third openly gay person on the seven-member panel. He joins lesbian Pat Colluzzi and recently elected Mark Hunker on the Commission.
Gossett noted that “the fact we not only have three openly gay members of the LGBT community as commissioners, but that we have members of the Planning Commission and Board of Adjustments, as well as the head of the local Chamber of Commerce and Rehoboth Main Street, a group which encourages events to attract tourists, shows how accepting Rehoboth is.”