Delaware Online reports that a restaurant patio restriction in Rehoboth Beach has been lifted for the 2011 vacation season. An ordianance (270-19) requires restaurants to stop serving food and alcohol by 10 p.m. to patio patrons, and that patios must be vacated by 11 p.m. However, some older establishments have been "grandfathered in" with an exemption.
Controversy erupted when an unusual crackdown took place after last Labor Day. It was later found that Commissioner Stan Mills had personally filed complaints against more than a dozen restaurants for violating the patio ordinance. Mills reportedly owns a residential property near several gay bars, and it was determined that he violated ethics rules by using his position to serve his personal interests. Most of the restaurants targeted were gay-friendly establishments, and Bill Shields of Aqua Grill was wrongfully arrested. Commissioner Mills is now required to recuse himself from issues dealing with the patio ordinance and any restaurants on Baltimore Ave.
Rehoboth's Mayor, Sam Cooper, says the situation should have been handled better, and claims that gay businesses were not targeted. He also says he was poorly paraphrased by The Washington Blade, which recently wrote, "He has said he supports local laws and regulations that prevent bars and other entertainment establishments from spoiling Rehoboth's status and tradition as a family-oriented vacation destination." Cooper's response to the use of the term "family-oriented" (Delaware Online):
"I never said that; I would never say that because I know what the connotations are.... It's family-friendly. It's gay-friendly. It's just friendly. I think a few people are trying to make this a wedge issue by inflaming passions."