Image courtesy of Bengies Drive-In Theatre.

D. Edward Vogel, part-owner of the Bengies Drive-In Theatre in Middle River, on Thursday said people have “misconstrued and manipulated” his theater’s employment policy, which social media users criticized for imposing unfair restrictions and requirements on workers.

The employment policy, which Bengies removed from its website and plans to revise, included rules limiting the number of piercings an employee can have and allowing employees to be “drafted” to work on their days off.

“To all reading the onslaught of posts putting us in a bad light, please consider the sources of those remarks and know that we maintain excellent relationships with our good employees,” Vogel wrote in a post on Bengies’ Facebook page. “We want good employees that want to work here, and for the most part, this is what you see here.”

Comments have been turned off on the theater’s most recent Facebook post, as well as a job listing post that first introduced many people to the employment policy.

Vogel, 67, has served as the sole owner and operator of Bengies for 33 years. In the past year, however, he said he became a part-owner of the theater as he is “slowly but surely turning over the reins” to what he called a “New Guard” at the theater. He said the theater’s policies will be updated by the younger managers soon to take over, Kenneth Adam Jr.,  whom Vogel called his “heir apparent,” and Adam’s own “right arm” and “long-standing top manager, Sean.”

Vogel said he instituted the employment policy in 1989, his second year of ownership. Since then, he said “the policy grew proportionally out of learning what employees can do to a small business when they do not understand the responsibility of having a ‘work ethic.’”

“All who have worked with me will attest I am one to put things in a harsh way, to gain the attention I felt was necessary to be sure the person looking at these policies understood our ‘stance’ on the matter of work ethic,” he added. “The policies are given upfront, as the person is applying for a job.”

Vogel defended some of the rules that he said people misunderstood.

One rule required employees to give 17 days written notice, and get that request approved by management, to take time off from work. If an employee is not scheduled to work but has not requested off, they can still be called into work on that day. Those who cannot come in because they have plans are considered to be in violation of that rule.

Vogel said that employees are only considered “off” work if they have requested and been approved for a scheduled day off.

“If they did not specifically request a day off, both the employee and us understand that they are available to work on days they were not scheduled to work,” he wrote. “We do not use the word ‘off’ on a schedule unless the employee specifically asked for that day off.”

He added that management does not ever demand employees work, but they have “been able to get folks in at the last minute who want to work by using the schedule to determine who is available if an employee calls out.”

Another rule stated that all employees have the opportunity to see movies at Bengies for free on days they are not scheduled to work, but those who do can be “drafted” to work if needed.

“But I can honestly say that has never come up in all the years I have operated this theatre,” Vogel wrote. “There have been times when we were busy, and employees present in the audience ran to assist, not because we asked and not even because they felt obligated, they did so because they enjoyed working here and wanted to help out.”

Vogel also addressed a rule prohibiting employees from wearing Bengies branded attire in a Royal Farms store, following a legal battle between the companies.

“However, as the ‘New Guard’ has pointed out to me, Royal Farms no longer needs to be singled out, as we do not want our staff to wear their company-provided work shirts outside of their scheduled shift,” he said.

Click here to read more about community members’ reactions to Bengies’ employment policy.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at

One reply on “Owner responds to criticism about strict employment policy at Bengies Drive-In”

  1. So he’s just quietly confirming all of it is true, with the excuse “Oh, they wanted to work.” Yeah, dude. The work they do at Bengie’s Drive-In Theater demands that employees are available to work every single day of the month, unless they have declared to management that they are off, and that is absolutely bananas, particularly for a place that employees teens who are paid minimum wage. And teens that are pumped about movies probably! Why else work there?

    Petty tyrants like these should retire and disappear, particularly if they’re running a business that is culturally obsolete and sustained by good will alone. If the new owners don’t come out and declare all this guy’s vain & authoritarian whims are over & done with – these cruel worker policies, the stupid Royal Farms beef, the litany of policies and rules customers have to study and obey when attending, and his testimony before the state legislature against basic wage increases for employees, HIS employees – Bengies should dissolve into the dirt.

    Seriously, why go through the bother of attending this kind of cinematic experience, if you’re supporting a wanna-be-CEO while having to follow a kajillion rules? Why not just go to your struggling local arts theater, which isn’t run by someone who scoffs at employees making more than minimum wage – it’s called the Charles, and it’s a block away from the Parkway, both of which are kinder to employees by a country mile.

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