Score One For Tiki Bar In Solomons

The Tiki Bar and Calvert commissioners are at odds over permits for land-use plans.
The Tiki Bar and Calvert commissioners are at odds over permits for land-use plans. (By James A. Parcell For The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Tiki Bar in Solomons dodged a bullet this week that threatened to shoot down its spring opening April 18.

The Calvert Board of County Commissioners voted in closed session Tuesday to allow the Tiki Bar to open and operate under the same rules that applied last year, said Commissioner Gerald W. Clark (R-Lusby).

The outdoor bar's opening every April has become the occasion for a huge street party that draws several thousand people to Solomons.

Tiki owners Pat Donovan and Terry Clarke have been involved in several lawsuits with the county since 2006, primarily over land use. A preliminary injunction has been in place since May 2006 that prohibits the owners from using two service bars and a driveway. However, the Circuit Court suspended the injunction for opening weekend last year.

When the owners approached the county for the same arrangement this year, they were told they would not be able to use the two service bars in addition to the main bar.

"The additional service bars are the little beer carts that have been in place for 28 years," Clark told his fellow commissioners Tuesday before the executive session. "What has changed?"

Donovan explained that the two extra bars help relieve the crush of customers at the main bar and reduce the number of people in the streets.

V. Charles Donnelly, an attorney for the owners, said they have extensive security and safety programs in place to handle the more than 10,000 people who come to Solomons Island for the Tiki Bar's opening.

"What is in place is a much better plan that what was ever in place" before Donovan and Clarke owned the bar, Donnelly said.

The county sued the Tiki Bar owners because they had made several changes without proper county approval, said Emanuel Demedis, county attorney, including the addition of a sand-filled courtyard and a new entrance using a neighboring driveway.

Donovan and Clarke are appealing the Planning Commission's rejection of their site plan. They also are seeking a court ruling on whether the service bars are legal and whether the Board of Appeals has the authority to rule on zoning appeals, among other issues, Donnelly said.

Owners of the Tiki Bar "need to submit a site plan that works" for both the county and the owners "and get this put to bed," Commissioner Clark said. "It seems a shame we have to go through this every year."

Clark said that the Tiki Bar has been in its location for about 30 years and that the opening represents the kickoff of the summer season in Solomons.

"It is good for all the businesses down there. The hotels fill up. The restaurants fill up," Clark said. "It gets things started."

© 2008 The Washington Post Company