By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(April 26, 2018) One of the first things personnel with the Matt Ortt Companies have had to do as they take over operations of the Ocean Pines yacht and beach clubs is dispose an excess of inventory, apparently bought at season’s end last year.
Making that job worse, much of the food stuffs went bad, exploded or became useless in some other way months ago.
Ralph DeAngelus, cofounder of the companies, addressed some of the inventory issues at last Thursday’s town hall meeting and added details in a phone interview last Friday.
“We’ve had to throw away about 150 cases of bottled sodas from the beach club basement that were left piled up there at the end of the summer, that froze and thawed and froze and exploded and thawed,” DeAngelus said.
He said about 100 cases of “bag in the boxes” flavors for soda fountain drinks worth about $6,500 also had to be thrown away.
“That’s just horrible ordering,” he said. “A lot of it was new – brand new, to be honest. I don’t know why they would order at the end of the summer.”
DeAngelus also said a walk-in cooler in the beach club basement was left on all winter.
“Not only was it running all winter when it should have been winterized, turned off and closed so that the electricity wasn’t used, but it was filled with seven cases of orange that had an inch of mold around all of them,” he said. “Who leaves seven cases of oranges? I bet you Harborside, the number-one orange crush restaurant on the planet, won’t go through seven cases on Memorial Day weekend.”
He said another 25 gallons of boxed orange juice exploded, and additional bottled and kegged beer was left behind and is now unusable.
“It was a disaster,” DeAngelus said.
At the yacht club, he said kitchen staff left food that was “unwrapped and unsealed and not properly stored in the walk-in, as if they were ready for a nuclear bomb to come to town and just wanted to escape.”
“It was the most disgusting thing you’ve ever seen in your life. We threw away hundreds of pounds of food. Some of it could have been frozen and reused, but they just left it in the walk-in,” he said. “It was literally tens of thousands of dollars.”
During the town hal, DeAngelus discussed 10 cases of Calypso Rum, likely ordered for rail drinks at about $13 per bottle, when Bowman’s Rum at $4.99 per bottle would have worked just as well.
“No one comes to the bar [and says], ‘gimmie a Calypso Rum and Coke,’” he said. “The salesman made his quota by coming in and telling whomever was in charge, ‘I’ll just do your liquor order for you. I think you need 10 cases of Calypso Rum.’
“There’s 20 drinks to a bottle and 12 bottles to a case and there’s 10 cases … so that’s 2,400 drinks,” DeAngelus said. “I’m saddled with that – I inherit that inventory that I have to pay for – so my costs get skewed until I’ve sold the first 2,400 rum drinks.”
The previous management, DeAngelus said, “treated that place like the government.”
“They knew they weren’t paying the bills, so they didn’t care what the bills were,” he said.
DeAngelus used the example of news reports during the 1980s discovering the U.S. military paying $640 for toilet seats.
“The yacht club and the beach club were run by the same people who bought [$640] toilet seats for the Navy – they just didn’t care,” he said. “They did the same thing with inventory.
“’Ten cases of Calypso Rum? Sure, why not. Bring it in! We’re not the ones that pay the bills. You want to bring in 100 cases of bag-in-the-box sodas and we have one week [in the season] to go? Yeah, sure, why not?’” DeAngelus continued. “There was no accountability.”
DeAngelus said of all the restaurants he has inherited, the situation in Ocean Pines was among the most dire.
“None have come in as filthy as these were, [or] unkempt as the beach club was,” he said.
The yacht club is a beautiful facility, DeAngelus said, “but it was dirty.”
“The grease trap, which should be emptied every six months, hadn’t been emptied since they built the building,” he said. “It was so thick and so hard at the bottom the people that came in to empty it almost considered getting a jackhammer to get the grease off of it – you can’t make that up.”
“I’m not looking to inflame the residents of Ocean Pines. I’m just looking for open and honest transparency as to what we encountered and what we have to deal with,” DeAngelus said. “We’re the guys for the job. We’re going to knock it out of the park. We just want everyone to know what we’re up against.”
Despite those obstacles, DeAngelus said he is confident he and Matt Ortt could turn the clubs around. The two-year contract signed with the association includes a flat $100,000 management fee per year, plus bonuses if operations improve.
“If I buy all that product at the end of my season and I leave it there, I’m accountable for inventory … and now I’m not going to make my bonus,” he said. “If I don’t hit my numbers, I get zero [bonus] and I’m not in it to get zero – I’m not busting my head against the wall to get zero.”
He also confirmed that Lynda Huettner, a former beach club manager, would be back in some capacity. Huettner is employed at Rare & Rye in Ocean City, a restaurant overseen by Matt Ortt Companies.
“She’s doing a wonderful job and she is beloved by people,” he said. “My original thought process was not to bring her back to the beach club, but … I’ve heard on many, many, many different levels that Lynda was a great ambassador to the beach club and I’ve since changed my stance on the potential to bringing her back.
“You will see her face there. Whether or not it’s full time and we rotate her back and forth I don’t know yet, but you will see her face at the beach club,” DeAngelus added.