(March 6, 2015) Seacrets has never been content to be one thing.
It’s a restaurant, a few bars (under one roof), an entertainment venue, merchandising juggernaut and according to a recent article on BuzzFeed, one of the “Bars in America you should drink at before you die.” Seacrets currently distills its own brands of spirits in Delaware, but owner Leighton Moore doesn’t want to do that anymore. All that needs to happen is state legislation to permit it to distill its own brand of spirits on site at 49th Street.
To that end, State Sen. Jim Mathias and Delegate Mary Beth Carozza have begun the process by submitting a pair of bills for consideration in their respective houses.
Seacrets has been making its own brand of liquors for a while now in a facility in Delaware. Moore, however, believes that moving that aspect of the operation to Seacrets property on will not only allow for greater productivity, but also will add to the resort economy.
The bills offered by Mathias and Carozza (SB523 and HB689, respectively) have 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.
“It’s a tremendous economic development opportunity,” Mathias said, “This will allow that operation to be more dynamic.”
Carozza was called to testify for her version of the bill.
“My main motivation for introducing this bill is to bring this operation home to Maryland,” Carozza said. “I believe my bill was well received by my colleagues on the House Economic Matters Committee, and I urged favorable consideration of it.”
Closer to home, the county commissioners declared their approval at a Thursday make-up session late in February.
“It has 40 jobs attached and with the tax revenue, I can’t find any ill effects,” said Commissioner Joe Mitrecic, who represents Ocean City.
Commissioner Bud Church agreed.
“It’s going to bring jobs from Delaware into Maryland, which doesn’t happen often,” he said.
Commissioner Chip Bertino asked if one license holder could have multiple locations, which under the proposed law, it probably could, but “the problem is space,” Mitrecic answered.
“As far as I know things are going well,” Moore said from Florida, “The city has given its support, the county too, I don’t see any anticipated problems.”
Moore’s boots on the ground in Annapolis belong to Seacrets Vice-President Gary Figgs.
“No one showed up to oppose the bill at the public hearing,” Figgs said, “so far so good.”
Figgs confirmed the distillery would replace condominiums on property owned by Seacrets closest to Morley Hall.
The Department of Legislative Services conducts its own analyses of each bill, in this case performed by Nathan McCurdy. Because the texts of the bills are so similar, the analyses are virtually identical.
On the fiscal side, general fund revenues are expected to increase by $500 for each of these licenses within Worcester County beginning when the bill takes effect, now slated for July 1, 2015, presupposing passage. The Senate version of the bill has been given a favorable review with amendments by the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs committee. General fund expenditures at the Comptroller’s Office would increase by $48,000 for one-time programming expenses, according to the report.
McCurdy foresees no impact to Worcester County operations or finances and the only small business impact is that which may occur to the distiller.
There are a few restrictions in that a holder of this type of license cannot begin wholesale operations. Neither can the licensee sell bottles of liquor through the distillery itself, 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.