City Council Votes a Symbolic 'No' to BYOB in Ocean City
The question will now move to a public vote.
City Council voted unanimously Thursday not to support a public initiative that would permit "bring your own bottle" restaurants in the dry town of Ocean City.
The vote sets the stage for the public to decide the question at the polls.
Council had the option to support the measure and make BYOB the law in Ocean City, but their rejection of the measure will not prevent the public vote.
A group of restaurant owners sponsored a petition drive that attained enough signatures to bring the question to the ballot for the Nov. 8 election. The petition included a proposed ordinance that would regulate BYOB in Ocean City (see attached PDF).
Thursday's discussion of the question started with City Clerk Linda MacIntyre officially certifying that enough submitted signatures were valid.
The process has been complicated by a recent appeals court decision in a northern New Jersey case. The decision may leave part of the petitioners' proposed BYOB ordinance subject to challenge: a section that designates how much alcohol can be consumed (in potential conflict with a state statute on BYOB).
The petitioners now have 10 days to decide if they want to go forward with bringing the proposed ordinance to voters on Nov. 8 (risking a potential legal challenge to at least part of the BYOB ordinance).
Jeff Sutherland, an attorney representing the petitioners, said Thursday that the group will meet shortly to decide if they want to go forward. They will consider the option of redrafting the petition, seeking new signatures and securing a spot on the ballot in Ocean City's municipal election in May.
Because the petitioners have the names and addresses of the people who signed, a new petition drive would be easier to execute than the first, Sutherland said.
City Council had the option to take no vote on the proposed BYOB ordinance, and (because of procedural waiting periods) force the petitioners to miss the deadline for the Nov. 8 ballot. But they didn't choose to do so.
"What they did today was the most proper thing to honor the public initiative," Sutherland said, acknowledging that they did so despite the fact that they don't support BYOB in Ocean City. "Council and the mayor took every effort to help us get it on the ballot."