Whelan Beach Bar Bill Approved By Environment Committee

Senator Whelan listening to testimony during the Senate Education Committee’s hearing on underage drinking on college campuses.

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Sen. James Whelan (D-Atlantic) that would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to issue a general permit for food and drink concession stands on a beach at Atlantic City hotels or motels so they would not have to be removed from the beach in the off-season was approved 6-0 today by the Senate Environment Committee.

Under terms of the bill (S-2825), the general permit would be issued in lieu of a permit issued under the “Coastal Area Facilities Review Act.” The bill was amended in committee to apply only to cities where casino gambling is permitted, which limits it to Atlantic City.

“DEP currently requires casino concessions commonly known as ‘beach bars’ to be dismantled and removed from the beach at the end of the season,” Sen. Whelan said. “This requirement to tear them down and rebuild them every year adds a significant and unnecessary expense. By issuing a general permit instead of a CAFRA permit, the hotels could keep their beach bar facilities in place during the off-season and save the cost of removing and re-building them.”

The general permit would be required if the concession stand provides total coverage of less than one acre; is not located on a dune or coastal bluff; is located at least 50 feet or more from any wetland; does not result in the grading, excavation, or filling of the beach; does not adversely impact the beach; does not obstruct ocean views or limit other beach uses; is located at least 50 feet landward of the mean high water line; is open to the public, and does not occupy more than a total of 33 percent of the total width of the beach berm area.

“There are still environmental safeguards in the bill that will keep the beach areas around the concessions safe and clean,” Sen. Whelan said. “The bill requires that the concession services only be operated from May 1 through October 31. It also requires that fully-enclosed accessory elements are removed from the beach during the off-season.”

The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration, although Sen. Whelan said he is in discussions with DEP officials to see if the changes can be effected through regulatory changes rather than through legislation.