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Beach Booze? Congress Hall Denies Report- City Fines Hotel $500 For Tents, Cabanas 6.14.2006

By Jack Fichter

CAPE MAY – Two callers to the Herald reported ordering alcoholic beverages last week on a stretch of beach here leased by Congress Hall hotel.
City Manager Luciano V. Corea Jr. told the Herald serving alcohol on the beach was not a permitted use on a city-owned beach. Congress Hall leases the parcel of beach from the city
Corea said serving non-alcoholic drinks and food on the beach was permissible.
“We absolutely have never, nor ever intend, to bring alcohol onto the beach,” said Congress Hall spokesperson Sandy Montano. “Our servers know that.”
 Two tents appeared on Congress Hall Beach two weekends ago with stacks of lounge chairs nearby. Smaller cabanas appeared last weekend on Congress Hall’s beach.
A travel story printed in the British, Guardian Unlimited newspaper June 9 reported: “the beach will become more popular this summer when Congress Hall begins the first cabana service in New Jersey: in another echo of its Victorian heyday, hotel guests will be able to lounge in candy-striped private cabanas and order food and cocktails from uniformed waiters on the sand.”
A newsletter on Congress Hall’s Website features a photo of a waitress delivering two tall drinks on a tray, capped with umbrellas and fruit to a couple sitting on lounges on the beach. An accompanying story describes improved pool and beach service.
“Feel like stretching out on a chaise lounger, a cool smoothie or a cocktail by your side as you soak up the sun?” it asks.
 Corea said Congress Hall has a mercantile license which would allow it to rent chairs, umbrellas, and cabanas. He said Congress Hall requested an electrical connection to the beach to operate an ice machine, but the city refused the request.
Cape May Zoning Official Bill Callahan said he fined Congress Hall $500 last week for putting up the tents and cabanas on the beach without a permit. Callahan said he reported the violation to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which was scheduled to inspect the beach today.
Callahan said he now has a set of plans from Congress Hall showing two larger tents known as “base stations” and 12 cabanas. Callahan said more cabanas were placed on the beach last weekend without a permit.
“Right now, I’m reviewing the plans and there are no permits,” he said. “If something happens down there, it’s on them, not on the city’s liability.” 
Plans call for radios in the cabanas to allow customers to call and place orders to the base station tents said Callahan. He said the plans do not request the serving of alcohol.
Corea said Congress Hall was permitted to serve food on the beach, prepared in the hotel kitchen.
 He said “technically” alcohol was not allowed on any of Cape May’s beaches but “we don’t have the cooler police running around to see if someone brings a wine cooler on the beach.”
Montano said the cabanas are available for rental and not set up as a food ordering locations. She said Congress Hall guests are given a flag to place next to their beach chair to summon a waiter.
The waiter brings the order from the hotel and guests sign for their food with their room number.
“This is just for guests only and they have to have flags to do it,” said Montano.
She said the “tents” were actually 8-foot by 12-foot cabanas to provide shade and could be rented to the general public for a fee.
“They are not for the purposes of having tables, chairs, and a party,” said Montano. 
She said the hotel wished to run an electrical line to the beach to power a cash register and freezers, but that “would happen next year.”
Montano said she would meet with the “pool people” and stress no alcoholic beverages are to be served on the beach. Beach menus do not mention alcoholic beverages, said Montano.
She said serving food on the beach was “the same principle if you sent your brother over and got a hot dog and brought it on the beach.”
Montano said a person on the beach could pay cash rather than charge their order to a room.

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