(April 10, 2015) While numerous steps remain between the plan and the reality, the way has been paved for Seacrets to open a distillery on its 49th Street property.
The nightclub/restaurant complex had been distilling its own line of spirits in Delaware, but will bring operations home once it becomes legal to do so.
If signed by Gov. Larry Hogan, the legislation will take effect July 1, allowing Seacrets to apply to Worcester County for a limited distillery license as a holder of a class D beer, wine and liquor license. As there was no opposition to the house or senate versions of the bill, the governor is expected to sign it.
“Then we have to file for a federal permit, but it needs to become law in Maryland first,” Gary Figgs, vice president of Seacrets, said.
Figgs said work has begun to lay out the parcel, adjacent to the Morley Hall now occupied by condominiums. The condos, Figgs said, would be relocated elsewhere on the property.
“I think it’s amazing and I’m really happy,” Seacrets owner Leighton Moore said. “It’s certainly going to save money.”
Moore said he would be incorporating the distillery into existing plans for Morley Hall, which includes a banquet facility on what is now the roof plus an added kitchen to support the hall, but no design features are permanent yet.
“I still have to go to the bank,” Moore joked.
Regulations prohibit the free flow of clientele between the Morley Hall and the proposed distillery, but integration “to a certain extent” was allowable, Moore said.
The proposed design will have to take into account the number of tours he can expect to conduct per day, Moore said, and whatever the regulatory bodies that normally oversee Ocean City development have to say.
The bills proposing the change to Maryland code had gained wide support locally, with letters of endorsement coming from the Worcester County Commissioners, the Hotel-Motel Restaurant Association, the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce and the Ocean City mayor and council.
There are a few restrictions in that a holder of this type of license cannot begin wholesale operations or sell bottles of liquor through the distillery itself. Neither can it produce more than 100,000 gallons of spirits nor sell more than 15,500 gallons of the product at retail in a calendar year.
To increase operations, if all goes well for Moore, Figgs and Seacrets, they would need another license.