Thursday, September 28, 2023

City Council Gives Ocean Oasis Alcohol Approval 5.24.2006

By Rick Racela

NORTH WILDWOOD – City council voted 5-2 May 16 to approve an ordinance that would permit the sale of alcoholic beverages at Morey’s Pier’s 25th Avenue water park.
The decision came after three hours of public comment in front of a large crowd that overflowed the meeting room in city hall and stood elbow to elbow down the steps and onto the front lawn.
The ordinance will take effect in 20 days from the May 16 meeting and alcohol sales will begin at the park this summer.  The Morey Organization plans to open the proposed $1 million upgrade, dubbed Ocean Oasis, in mid-June.
In addition to alcohol, it would also offer upscale amenities like cabanas, a shaded area to relax in hammocks, hot tubs, massage therapy, and upscale food options.
Will Morey, president of the organization, has said that the plan will allow a family to enjoy the whole resort experience.
It would also enable the park to become more competitive, he said.
“We can’t afford to become unattractive as a resort,” said resident Bill Oakley. “We need to remain competitive and contemporary.”
“It is not just booze in a water park,” noted Morey.
A handful of water park industry experts, including Rick Root, president of the World Water Park Association, voiced their endorsement of alcohol service in a controlled environment.
“Alcohol, when it is appropriately served and supervised, is an appropriate family friendly addition,” Root said.
Disney was cited as an example of a company that serves alcohol in a similar manner.
However resident Steve Backer said he doesn’t believe the comparisons to Disney makes sense.
“When I go to Disney World, I park my car and take the monorail everywhere. Here you will have people driving home,” he said.
Others, who opposed the ordinance, said that allowing alcohol in an amusement environment would further glamorize drinking and endanger the safety of children.
Don Martin, a former city councilman, questioned if it made sense to put an alcohol outlet next to a ride.
“What is the next step going to be?” asked Wes Tommassello. “Someone is bound to get hurt. What are you going to tell us then?”
The Morey Organization has said that their staff will be prepared to handle a guest who has one too many drinks. Sixty lifeguards, 95 percent who are over the age of 18, and 10 supervisors will be monitoring the park.
Denise Beckson, director of water park operations, said that, “aquatic safety is the number one priority.”
She explained that the lifeguards on staff have to go through 40 hours of training, plus written exams, regardless of previous certification.
Beckson said that the organization would apply the same strict practices to the service of alcohol as they do to safety.
“I’m aware of the risks,” she said. “I live it everyday.”
William Rutherford agreed that the organization’s staff does a “phenomenal job.”
“In the end though, it is the parents that should take responsibility for their kids,” he said.
Michele Previti urged council to remember the initial response to the controversial ordinance that was shouted down by a large crowd that packed the city’s recreation center on March 7.
During that council meeting, a loud chorus of boos and shouts of opposition from members of the audience, many who had been bused in from Philadelphia to express their frustrations with the revaluation, continued as council asked for a second on the motion. A second was not offered and the ordinance failed.
“That response was genuine. There was no media buzz or public relations campaign,” she said.
Councilman Ed Koehler likened this decision to being an umpire at a little league game.
“No matter what call you make, 50 percent of the people are going to think you’re right and 50 percent of the people are going to be upset,” he said.
Koehler and council members Joe Duncan, Robert Maschio, Robert McCullion, and council president Patrick Rosenello voted in favor of the ordinance.
Council members Hank Rice and Walter Larcombe voted against the proposal.
City Clerk Janet Harkins said the city received 89 letters in support of the ordinance and 98 against. An additional petition against the ordinance was submitted with 79 names.
This vote is not the end, said Kathy Martin, an organizer of Families Opposing Waterpark Liquor, or FOWL.
 “We are here to stay and we’ll be scrutinizing every step that this new law takes,” she added.
Contact Huggins at: (609) 886-8600 ext. 25 or

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