Margate turns to bouncers to enforce beach-tag law

   "Beach badge bouncers" Tim Goodwin (left) and Andrew Baumgardner talk with Linda O'Neill of Claymont, Del. The two men, both college football players, help Margate's beach-badge checkers enforce the town's tag law.
   "Beach badge bouncers" Tim Goodwin (left) and Andrew Baumgardner talk with Linda O'Neill of Claymont, Del. The two men, both college football players, help Margate's beach-badge checkers enforce the town's tag law. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 30, 2012

MARGATE, N.J. - Call it Margate Muscle.

Actually, some people on the beach do just that. Like George Orfe of Mount Laurel, who raised an eyebrow in 100-degree heat Tuesday when approached by beach-badge checker Samantha Tepedino, 18, and her, well, backup.

"Oh, are you the muscle protecting her?" he said to Tim Goodwin, 6-foot-1, 250 pounds, standing silently behind Tepedino in Margate Beach Patrol T-shirt, shorts, and visor.

As a matter of fact, yes. And you should see his partner, Andrew Baumgardner, 6-2, 272 pounds. Let's just say they were not hired for their big smiles.

Perhaps it was inevitable. What to do about beachgoers who give beach-badge checkers - mostly teenage girls - a rough and rude time about buying beach tags?

In Margate, they hired two Division I-AA football players to act as "beach badge bouncers." They each make $10 an hour and are on duty from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with Goodwin also working Tuesdays. The beach checkers make between $7.25 and $9.75.

Goodwin, 19, a tight end at Sacred Heart University, and Baumgardner, also 19, a center at James Madison University, were hired by supervisor (and former Holy Spirit football coach) Bill Walsh this summer to keep sunbathers paid up, tagged, and tamed.

"It sets the tone before anything can happen," Walsh says.

Goodwin, of Ventnor, is a smiling redhead behind yellow reflecting-glass shades, arms crossed. Baumgardner, of Longport, is a bit more serious (and slightly beefier, though Goodwin has put on 20 pounds of muscle since the start of the summer, preparing for football season).

They dress identically in Margate Beach Patrol T-shirt and black shorts, white visor, and bare feet. They are available by text, by summons through Walsh, and through routine rounds by ATV up and down the Margate beach, from Argyle to Monroe, staring down at the reading, texting, bitten-up and thirsty, bored and sometimes beleaguered badge checkers stationed at the beach entrances.

"They're so big they don't fit into the beach mule," jokes Walsh, who says he called on these two local favorites - whom he has known since they were kids - after encountering some "challenges" in the early beach-tagging season.

The badge checkers - who have been called names not suitable for repeating, yelled at, sometimes to the point of tears, and lectured on the rights of million-dollar homeowners who don't want to throw in an additional $15 for a seasonal beach tag or $10 for a weekly version - are happy to have their blockers.

"They are really helpful," says Tepedino, who started as a checker at 13. "They walk up with their arms crossed. There's never a hassle. Last year, we got into fights with so many people."

Posted at the Benson Avenue beach near Ventura's Greenhouse, where she has taken her share of abuse learning that imbibers tend not to want to buy tags, she said, "I thought people would still be rude."

But the shoobies have mostly caved at the show of muscle. "A 250-pound guy walks up, and it's, like, 'I'm sorry,' " she said.

The Margate muscle crackdown strategy is apparently yielding Margate money. (To that end, they've also stationed a 15-year-old at the library parking lot to call ticket-writers if anyone parks there but heads to the beach instead.)

Margate chief financial officer Lisa McGlaughlin says more than 42,100 beach badges have been sold this year, already exceeding last year's total of 39,756 tags. (A total of 3,423 tags were found missing last season that hadn't been paid for, a whole other headache.)

Revenue so far for 2012 is $300,241.50, $19,524 more than in 2011. "We have a good set of beach inspectors working," McGlaughlin said.

And oh, the stories inspectors Goodwin and Baumgardner can tell. One guy approached by Goodwin to buy a tag or leave the beach started kicking at his shins, flicking sand on his ankles, stepping on his foot, trying to rile him up, saying: "Am I bothering you? Look, I'm touching you."

"They don't know what we are," says Goodwin. "They call us the intimidators. But people start to realize, we're a deterrent."

"They used to get away with it," says Baumgardner. "Now, it's, 'Listen, you are going to have to buy beach tags.' Most people get the hint."

Last weekend, a 17-year-old girl had to be removed by police even after Goodwin and Baumgardner had approached and tried to reason with her. She kept screaming.

At that point, Goodwin and Baumgardner, who say they will stop short of actually physically removing anyone, called the police, who did the removing.

The biggest offenders, they say, are between 30 and 50 years old, the ones with the fancy second homes. They think they've paid enough. " 'My million-dollar home. I own a million-dollar home, more than you'll ever make,' " Goodwin says they say. " 'I don't need to buy a beach tag.' They feel entitled for whatever reason."

Some people just take off in search of freedom, like the family of eight that showed up Tuesday morning, were told they needed $80 worth of beach tags, and hit the road for the free beaches of Wildwood. They could also come back on a Thursday, which is a no-beach-tag-required day in Margate.

Mike O'Leary, a Margate lifeguard, recalled a family of 11 in the water who wouldn't respond to his whistle to swim in front of the stand. He saw they had not bought tags, and summoned Baumgardner and Goodwin to enforce the lesser offense.

"It came down to an ultimatum," he said. "Buy the tags or leave the beach." The family bought $110 worth of tags.

"I know I would buy a beach tag from them," said O'Leary, a leaner 6-2, 220. "They're big guys. Now people can't disrespect the 15-year-old girls."

Goodwin says he feels they're doing a worthy job. They might have been lifeguards if their football schedule didn't pull them back to school the first week in August. The lifeguards are happy they no longer have to deal with badge disputes - at least, for now. Goodwin and Baumgardner won't be replaced for the remaining weeks of the summer season when they depart.

Their friends, Goodwin says, mostly think, accurately, "It's a sweet gig."

On Tuesday, a scorching but mostly slow day on the beach, Goodwin was summoned for other duties: breaking a $100 bill for a woman trying to buy a tag, bringing water to thirsty beach-tag checkers, listening to complaints from taggers who'd been bitten by black flies, doing some rounds, following the checkers on a few sweeps of the beach and explaining himself.

The reaction from the beach chairs was mixed. "It's a little heavy-handed," observed John Gamo of South Philadelphia, who at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds thought he could at least outrun the pair. "We can find bigger things for them to do than that - like keeping the tide back."

"Is he physically going to get you to leave the beach?" said Fausto Nistico. "Personally, I think they shouldn't charge anyone. We pay enough taxes."

Charli Desmon of Northeast Philadelphia, on the beach with her mom and a friend, felt the big shadow of the tight end descend on her at Huntington Avenue.

"You're standing in my sun - um, hi?" she said, squinting up at them. "I would have gotten the third tag out."

Orfe, the one accurately tagging Goodwin as the muscle, got off easy, having already purchased a beach tag for himself and his wife, Charlotte. There were chuckles, and compliance.

"I was ready to come out of the chair if I had to," he added.


See a video about Margate's "beach badge bouncers" at www.philly.com/bouncers


Contact Amy S. Rosenberg

at 609-823-0453 or arosenberg@phillynews.com, or follow on twitter @amysrosenberg.

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