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Whelan Beach Bar Bill Approved By Senate Committee

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, to require the state Department of Environmental Protection to issue general permits to beach bars, allowing facility owners to keep their structures up year-round instead of tearing them down at the end of each season, was unanimously approved today by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

The bill, S-208, would require the DEP to issue general permits to food and drink concession stands on the beach at a hotel or motel. The permits would apply only to concessions in municipalities where casino gaming is legal, limiting them to Atlantic City.

“Casinos are spending literally into the six figures to break down and rebuild their beach bars,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “Especially in this tough economic environment, businesses should not have to deal with the unnecessary, excessive costs currently associated with operating these attractions in Atlantic City.”

The permits presently issued to casino concessions under the “Coastal Area Facilities Review Act” require beach bars to be dismantled and removed from the beach at the end of each season – water and electrical lines are also broken down.

Under the bill, a general permit would be issued if the concession stand covers less than one acre; is not located on a dune; is located at least 50 feet from any wetland; does not result in the grading, excavation or filling of the beach; does not adversely impact the beach, unreasonably obstruct ocean views or limit other beach uses; is located at least 50 feet landward of the mean high water line or on the most landward portion of the beach if the beach is less than 50 feet wide; and does not occupy more than a total of 40 percent of the total width of the beach berm area.

Concessions receiving the permit could only operate from May 1 through October 31. Additionally, the bill would require certain movable elements, such as storage sheds and portable restrooms, and furniture that could be blown around during a storm, be removed from the beach during the off-season. The infrastructure, however, would remain.

“There are still protections in this legislation that will keep the beach areas clean and safe,” said Senator Whelan. “But given the need to ensure Atlantic City’s long-term economic health and to make the resort more business-friendly, we should remove the layers of unnecessary red tape this annual permitting process creates.”

The bill now heads to the Senate President who decides if and when to post it for a full Senate vote.