Dewey Beach, Delaware is a small coastal community known for its raucous nightlife and thriving music scene. While that party atmosphere is good for business owners, it has put them at odds with town leaders.
Steve Montgomery owns the popular Starboard restaurant just off the main drag in Dewey Beach. He says the relationship between the town and the business community has been strained for years, but things have gotten especially worse recently.
"The business licenses are higher than ever," Montgomery says. "I own three businesses at the beach. In Bethany Beach, I pay a business license of about $250 a year, in Lewes, Delaware, I pay a business license of about $175 a year, and in Dewey Beach, I pay a business license of about $5000 a year.”
The debate went to court recently, and the town won after the judge ruled that because the town holds an all powers clause in its charter, they can tax or levy new fees.
Mayor Diane Hanson says the reason business license fees are so high is because the rampant nightlife scene in Dewey forces the town to spend more than half its annual budget on police presence in the summer to patrol the nightly party.
“They were comparing our license fees to Bethany, well that’s the quiet resort, they close at 11 p.m., it’s not the same," Hanson says. "It’s comparing apples to something not even oranges — it’s something not even in the fruit category.”
Montgomery believes the business community has made huge strides to improve public safety and minimize incidents but says it's getting to the point that when businesses offer to do more, the town says thanks, but no thanks.
Hanson says a little more moderation in what she calls the "excessive" nightlife scene in Dewey would be a good start to improving the strained relationship.