By Donald Wittkowski
Sea Isle City is bringing back teen-oriented open mic nights as part of its weekly summer entertainment series after the mayor and the Chamber of Commerce reached agreement Tuesday to allow the event to run as late as 11 p.m.
The teen nights will feature acoustic music, karaoke, an Xbox game truck and artwork in a festival-like setting at Excursion Park on Wednesdays from 9-11 p.m. during the summer season.
They are designed to keep teenagers from hanging out and drinking on the beaches or Promenade late at night. The idea for open mic night followed outbursts of underage drinking and rowdy behavior by teenagers, particularly during the summer of 2016.
“We were literally addressing a problem we had for years,” said Brian Heritage, a local surf shop owner and Chamber of Commerce member who helped organize the teen entertainment.
The Chamber teamed up with the Sea Isle City Board of Education to sponsor the open mic nights in 2017. Last year, they were held on Thursday nights from 9-10:30 p.m. as part of the city’s weekly lineup of summer entertainment.
The Chamber originally decided not to bring back the teen nights this year because the event ran into conflicts with the city’s outdoor noise ordinance and had to shut down last summer at 10:15 p.m., earlier than what teenagers wanted, Heritage said.
Speaking on behalf of the Chamber, Heritage appeared during the City Council meeting Tuesday to urge the city to extend the time for teen nights. He stressed that the entertainment helps keep teens out of trouble.
“The kids really started to gravitate to this,” Heritage told Council about the popularity of open mic nights last summer.
After listening to Heritage’s comments, Mayor Leonard Desiderio agreed to allow the teen nights to go as late as 11 p.m. Although they were held on Thursdays last summer, the teen nights will move to Wednesdays this year.
Desiderio noted that police will keep an eye on open mic nights and may step in to shut down the music at 10:30 p.m. if any problems occur.
After the Council meeting, Desiderio joked with Heritage that he might join with the teenagers for a night of karaoke.
“I’ll go and sing one night. That will really be a fun night,” Desiderio quipped.
In previous summers, both the city and the Chamber teamed up to sponsor an array of free, family-friendly nighttime shows throughout the week at the Band Shell in Excursion Park, including outdoor concerts, dance parties and movies.
However, the Chamber withdrew from the entertainment series for this summer, leaving the city to go solo. But with Tuesday’s agreement in place for the return of open mic nights, the Chamber will be part of the weekly entertainment after all.
This summer, the city will sponsor “Classic Movies Under the Stars” on Mondays, family dance parties on Tuesdays, live music on Thursdays, “Family Movies Under the Stars” on Fridays and concerts by tribute bands on Saturdays. A full listing of the entertainment lineup is posted online at www.visitsicnj.com.
The idea behind the free nighttime entertainment at Excursion Park is to draw more families and visitors to town during Sea Isle’s all-important summer vacation season. After the shows wrap up, city officials hope that tourists will mingle around downtown for a while, spending their money at the local shops and restaurants.
City officials and the Chamber agreed to a new start time for the shows this summer in a compromise that is designed to keep business flowing. This year, the entertainment will get underway at 7:30 p.m., a half hour later than last summer. The old 7 p.m. start time was criticized as being too early.
The teen nights, though, will start at 9 p.m. For now, the open mic nights will be considered a “pilot program” because of the extended time to 11 p.m.
At the request of city officials, Heritage agreed to give Council a report on the teen nights after the summer season is over.
“Sea Isle doesn’t have a lot of entertainment for this demographic. We have to address that,” Heritage said in an interview after the Council meeting.