WEST OCEAN CITY — The Green Room in West Ocean City received permission yesterday to significantly expand its alcoholic beverage license to include liquor sales and a 25-seat interior bar.
Supporters for Green Room owners Sara and Dave Hambury packed their application hearing in front of the Board of License Commissioners (BLC) Thursday with no opposition in evidence, despite the fact that the Worcester County Department of Liquor Control (DLC), through County Attorney Sonny Bloxom, had confirmed earlier this month it would contest the store’s license expansion.
Having owned the Green Room for 12 years, the Hamburys told the BLC that their business is complemented and to a degree reliant on having a liquor outlet nearby. For 29 years, there has been just such a liquor mart directly adjacent to the Green Room and dating back to the beer and wine store that preceded the Green Room. But this winter the DLC announced that it will be closing that West Ocean City location next month to consolidate resources and open a new flagship store closer to Berlin.
Fearing that the loss of adjacent liquor sales would devastate the Green Room’s beer and wine business, the Hamburys applied to expand their license to include liquor sales and decided to take over the soon-to-be-abandoned DLC outlet next door, increasing the size of the Green Room from about 2,000 square feet to roughly 6,000 square feet. Worcester County initially opposed such an expansion to the store’s license, with Bloxom arguing that between the new DLC flagship liquor outlet and nearby Trader Lee’s there was no need for the Green Room to offer liquor.
“It’s not necessary to expand sales in that area. By doing so you only cut into everybody else’s profits,” he said earlier this month, “and the county has an obligation and has made an investment in this new store we’re putting in and we have a right to protect it for the citizens.”
However, county resistance stirred up a public outcry, with many people labeling the decision greedy. Hugh Cropper, attorney for the Green Room, asserted that the DLC was worried less about the need for liquor sales in the area being satisfied and more with having to share county profits with another private business. The new DLC store will be 4.7 miles from its prior location next to the Green Room and in the summer especially that distance will leave several gaps in liquor service that the Hamburys should be allowed to fill, Cropper told the BLC.
Many residents agreed including Norman Tucker, who lives in the Whispering Woods community and frequents the Green Room for beer and wine as well as the current DLC liquor mart, which will be gone by the end of May.
“We do pretty much all of our shopping for alcohol there and next door,” he said. “And we have quite a need to go there and back; it’s a circumference of two traffic lights.”
Should the Green Room not be allowed to supply liquor, Tucker told the board that a trip to the new DLC location near Berlin and back would be a major inconvenience, even more so because he would have to make a separate stop for beer or wine instead of being able to handle both at once.
While support was prevalent for the Hamburys’ application, opposition was entirely absent, including the DLC, which chose to remain silent when the Green Room was finally reviewed by the BLC.
The board unanimously approved all of the Hamburys’ requests including off-sale liquor and permission for a 25-seat bar within the new Green Room. According to Sara Hambury the bar will “focus on wine, wine education and micro brews” as well as “moderated” liquor. The couple hopes to have the new, much larger Green Room open for operation by July, though they acknowledged that such an ambitious schedule will require a lot of work and a little bit of luck.