Monday, December 8, 2008

Uproar on the Shore

Dewey beach was one of the last towns in Delaware to receive a charter and become a municipality. Prior to its incorporation in 1981, though, Dewey Beach was probably one of the most distinct places in all of Delaware. Known for its beach-bonanza craziness, seedy bar life, and a live-and-let-live approach to rule enforcement, Dewey and its denizens had a wonderfully unique character and reputation around the state and around the region. When a group of people got together to trek over to Dewey, they knew what they were getting into.

Today, I guess it's a different story. The News Journal published an article here that talks about the increasing anger of Dewey Beach residents over the loud and rowdy nightlife that has always defined Dewey and set it apart from the "Quiet Resorts" of Bethany Beach, South Bethany, and Fenwick Island. Some residents claim that Dewey's restaurants are mainly a front for alcohol sales and that properties end up unrented because they are too close to the noise.

Of course, all this hoopla finds a lot of its roots in an episode of the reality show COPS that was filmed there this past summer and aired in September. The backlash against the portrayal of Dewey Beach as a "Daytona Beach of the Mid-Atlantic" was palpable and many residents expressed their anger about it to their local leaders and the media.

Within all this bad noise and yelling about nuisance and drunkenness, I can't help but see an underlying tone of puritanical rage and major overreaction. And, above it all, you can hear me shouting, "It's the economy, stupids!" The blend of cheap rooms, high availability of alcohol, and many decades of a reputation as a party town is an economic force that no WASPy, upper-middle-class petition-signing is going to make go away. Dewey is what it is. It is not a "Quiet Resort" and the bars and restaurants that are there know this and respond to the people who come to Dewey. Fifty-million Dewey fans can't be wrong...and they all just got another round on the house.

Let me give you a little glimpse into the near future in Dewey Beach. Those Dewey residents who are complaining will ultimately do one of four things: sell their Dewey property and buy a nice, quiet set-up in Bear Trap Dunes; rent their Dewey property to more tolerant young hooligans and buy a nice, quiet set-up in South Bethany; live with it until they ultimately die of stress and worry about all those darn (drunk) kids on their lawn; or, embrace it and open up a big, gaudy tiki bar that will give the Starboard a run for its money.

Don't fight the powerful force of nature that is the local economy. I would think that people who live so close to the beach (a la "don't turn your back on the ocean) would know better.

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