To the Editor:
I've been asked to speak in favor of BYOB in Ocean City from my experience working in Collingswood during its renaissance.
I am truly neutral on this issue for a few reasons:
- I am not a resident, although I am in Ocean City almost daily for many reasons — among them, I like the town as much as I liked Collingswood —with or without alcohol.
- Personally, I don't drink ... for several reasons ... one is stomach issues ... the other is being retired from a career counseling drug and alcohol issues. But I love good food.
I can tell you what I observed in Collingswood that might help.
First let me say that "Colls" is a town that works together on issues and tends to find creative ways to solve its problems. Mayor Malley was proud and satisfied with the results of the changes. They don't seem to have the control issues that exist in Ocean City.
When I began working there, Haddon Avenue had deteriorating buildings, struggling and closing businesses. Simultaneously, the police experienced destruction and violence regularly on the part of the young people who were out in the evening. The aftermath of these issues often crept into our school.
Once the buildings were renovated and occupied in the evening, the town turned into a wonderful walkabout community day and night. With more adults' eyes on the avenue, destruction and violence by our young people was reduced.
Personally, I walked the avenue, in the morning for coffee, afternoon or evening and ate in several of those fine restaurants once a week. I actually never saw anyone drinking at lunch but more often in the evening. I never witnessed out-of-control behaviors.
Patrons were always mature adults, families and friends enjoying a meal with wine or beer. I never saw kids or young adults hauling in cases or large quantities to be consumed and never saw anyone walking drunkenly down the street.
Let's face it, the restaurant owners don't want wild drunkenness in their establishment, especially if they aren't making money selling it. Any restaurant maintains the right to ask any patron to leave a restaurant — booze or not. Not every restaurant honored the right to carry BYOB, but they too benefited from the option. And let's remember, unlike Ocean City, Collingswood is next to Camden. But like Ocean City, it is a town laden with churches and religious fervor.
Whatever decision is made, may it be made with the best interest of the town in the absence of fear-mongering.