October 21, 2010 at 2:28 pm EDT | by Staff reports
Rehoboth police arrest gay bar owner over dispute

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — A police raid on restaurants with patios, many of which cater to the LGBT community, has business owners up in arms.

The Rehoboth Beach Board of Commissioners held a meeting on the topic on Oct. 15 in a room packed with business owners, residents and members of the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Rehoboth.

The issue came to a head shortly after Labor Day, when at the request of City Commissioner Stan Mills, 12 establishments were raided by police for allegedly not complying with existing patio rules. Bill Shields, owner of Aqua Grill, an outdoor bar and restaurant popular with the LGBT community, was arrested.

“I was so upset that night that I cried,” Shields told the Delaware Coast Press.

The criminal charges are based on a 1991 ordinance that had rarely been enforced. The ordinance makes it illegal to serve alcohol or food on a patio after 10 p.m., and requires that all patrons be removed from the outdoor patios by 11 p.m.

Of the town’s 34 restaurants with outdoor patios, just 12 were targeted, leading some to accuse police of singling out gay establishments. The police chief denies those claims.

Rehoboth’s two openly gay commissioners, Pat Coluzzi and Dennis Barbour, after meeting with leaders of the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street, offered a resolution to change the patio ordinances. Barbour tried to change the entire ordinance but it was clear that the commissioners wanted to address both noise complaints and patio ordinances. Coluzzi offered a motion that would decriminalize the patio offenses, but the motion failed by a vote of 4-3.

Barbour vowed to keep the subject on the commission’s agenda.

— Peter Schott

  • This is a criminal matter? Why wouldn’t this just be handled by a liquor board, licensing agency, or in a civil court? Meanwhile, it took weeks for Rehoboth police to catch the group of young men mugging and robbing tourists.

    I stayed at a B&B this past summer and the owner said he could not serve wine for fear of being raided. We thought it was a bit of hyperbole or a joke. Guess not.

  • Hey – Rehoboth has been progressively more and more anti-gay for the past 10 years… This is just one small episode in a whole string of little and big unpleasantnesses. The local LGBT is totally toothless, and when the DE homophobes implement another item on their agenda, they usually acquiece… Because it’s all about lewdness, right? And gays have got to be saintlier than the Pope of Rome, right?
    Any wonder that today’s Rehoboth and Rehoboth of 15 years ago are like night and day?

  • Actually Rehoboth is not anti-gay at all. There may be some jerks on the City Commission like Stan Mills and Mayor Cooper who has been there mcuh too long, but the town is a great place for a member of the LGBT community to spend time. Many of the restaurants are owned by members of the LGBT community and every year more and more members of the community buy homes there to retire or to just get away for a great vacation. Rehoboth has an active and vibrant LGBT community both social and political.

    The current governor of Delaware is a strong supporter of the LGBT community as is the next US Senator, Chris Coons.

    Like anyplace else there is the fight between the homeowners and businesses. We have that in DC in Dupont and many other very gay friendly areas. It is up to us to make sure that we support the business community.

    It is my understanding that the City of Rehoboth did not go ahead with the complaint against Bill Shields, owner of Aqua. But he will need us to be supportive as will all the other business owners who make Rehoboth the great place it is.

  • There are plenty of other gay-friendly destinations where LGBT money is welcome. Rehoboth is a tired place that offers little or nothing for the gay community. This is just the latest example of LGBT people being hassled in Rehoboth. I won’t go back, and I urge a boycott of Rehoboth until things change.

  • Moshe – With all due respect, a boycott of Rehoboth is misplaced anger and will only hurt LGBT businesses and the LGBT community overall. If there is a sentiment among a few of the commissioners to “drive out” or harrass the LGBT community, than a boycott will help accomplish that mission. You would be hurting LGBT merchants and inn keepers who are already struggling given the weak economy.

    RB has a vibrant arts scene and the volunteers at CAMP Rehoboth work very hard for the community whether it is HIV testing, counseling, support groups or a variety of activities, I am puzzled why anyone would feel there is nothing for the LGBT community. I am amazed by the amount of community events for a town of its size.

    Granted, RB has had incidents of homophobic hate crimes and that is always of great concern in our community — but many of our iconic gay neighborhoods including The Castro, Chelsea and the Village have also experienced hate crimes — and you don’t hear calls for a boycott. Please tell me about a LGBT friendly destination where there are not political power plays such as this involving bar owners? Fire Island, P-town, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Springs and Key West have all had similar issues.

  • It’s obvious that “Moshe” either has not spent a lot of time in Rehoboth or is sadly uninformed. Perhaps both. And Peter R – calling Sam Cooper and Stan Mills jerks doesn’t help us down here. Saying it in private conversation is one thing, voicing it publicly doesn’t give either of them any incentive to work with us. You’re not a resident of the city and you don’t live here full-time, so maybe you should dial it down a bit.

  • Lets file a class action complaint with the FBI and Justice Department take away Rehobeth Beach control.Get the noise complaint reduced to a warning not a criminal charge on a first time offense.

  • rb 15 years ago was truly a special place and time. remember world class restaurants? fabulous entertainment? incredible dancing? and an outstanding b’n’b?

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2019. All rights reserved.