BYOB Supporters in Ocean City Launch New Petition Drive
Petitioners seek a public vote May 8 on allowing "Bring Your Own Bottle" restaurants in the dry town.
A new petition calling for a public vote on allowing "Bring Your Own Bottle" (BYOB) restaurants in the dry town of Ocean City started circulating on Friday (Feb. 10).
A committee of petitioners met on Friday morning to finish plans for collecting signatures.
The petitioners face an early March deadline to collect 351 signatures (10 percent of the Ocean City votes cast in the November 2011 General Assembly election) in time to have the binding question included on the ballot for Ocean City's May 8 municipal elections.
Ocean City has prohibited the sale and public consumption of alcohol through laws and deed restrictions since its founding in the 1800s. But the petition's supporters see BYOB restaurants as a way to add to Ocean City's appeal as a year-round shopping and dining destination.
The issue has sparked a debate in the city — with many people passionate about preserving the status quo in a popular family resort.
A group of restaurant owners helped launch a petition drive last year and collected enough signatures to have the question put on the ballot for the election on Nov. 8, 2011. But fears that a recent court case in northern New Jersey may have invalidated at least part of their proposal led them to withdraw the petition before the fall election.
The old petition outlined a proposed ordinance and guidelines for BYOB in Ocean City (see story). The new petition satisfies the state guidelines that led the group to pull the proposal in the fall, and it eliminates the Boardwalk from the proposed areas where BYOB would be permitted.
"The biggest change is the Boardwalk," said Bill McGinnity, owner of Cousin’s Restaurant at 104 Asbury Ave. and vice president of the Ocean City Restaurant Association. "That was the No. 1 concern everybody had. So that's been eliminated."
To see the new petition, click on the PDF icon above.
McGinnity said the BYOB proponents have formed a political action committee — Friends of Shop, Dine and Play in Ocean City — to promote and support the BYOB initiative and larger efforts to market local businesses.
He said the PAC and the initiative can work hand-in-hand with a current effort to rebrand the downtown as a year-round destination.
"It's not just restaurants that want this," McGinnity said. "A lot of people are focusing on year-round island living and on not being so much of a one-trick pony. We want to push Ocean City as a year-round community. We want more people buying real estate here."
McGinnity said he understands the marketing value of Ocean City's reputation as a dry town, but he said he doesn't believe BYOB will diminish that brand.
"If they're bringing something forward, God bless them, but I want it to be the right ordinance," Mayor Jay Gillian said. "It's a democratic process."
He said he does not want Ocean City to go through the same divisive debate over the issue only to have the ordinance be illegal. He said that he's already received calls with questions from Boardwalk merchants and is researching whether it's legal to exclude them.
While Gillian supports the public's right to decide, he has been firm in his opposition to BYOB.
"One of the reasons we get so much notoriety is because of our family tradition of no alcohol," Gillian said. "It's who we are."
The committee of petitioners includes John Ball, Sharon Hoffman, Eleanor Parker, Aimee Repici and Joanne Bernardini
They announced the following schedule for anybody interested in signing the petition:
- 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday at Captain Bob's (55th Street and Simpson Avenue)
- 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at Captain Bob's (55th Street and Simpson Avenue)
- 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, at the Chatterbox
- 8 and 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, at Who's on First (First Street and Asbury Avenue)
(This story is developing. Check back for updates.)