The BYOB Battle in Ocean City took a dramatic turn Wednesday that left anyone wanting to be able to drink wine or beer in local restaurants feeling dry.
The so-called "BYOB initiative" is off the November ballot, according to a press release put out by city business administrator Michael Dattilo Wednesday:
Earlier today the City of Ocean City was advised by the Committee of Petitioners for the “BYOB” initiative that they have unanimously voted to withdraw the petition. Therefore the petition will not be placed on the November ballot. The notification also stated that it is the intent of the Committee to present a new initiative for the May 2012 municipal election if the relevant state statue is amended through the legislative process.
Supporters of the initiative pulled it off the ballot because of a New Jersey state statute that wouldn't allow businesses to regulate the amount of alcohol diners could bring to a restaurant, they said.
The hope is to get the statute changed and put the BYOB questions in front of voters next year.
Earlier this month the Ocean City Patch reported that petitioners submitted 583 signatures in favor of the historically dry town allowing residents to bring their own bottle of alcohol to Ocean City restaurants.
The Ocean City Municipal Clerk had certified that enough signatures of registered city voters were verified to allow for a BYOB referendum which will be voted on by the public on the November ballot, according to the Patch. The petition was set to be submitted to the city council last week.
Since the late 1800s, Ocean City has not allowed BYOB or the sale of liquor. This will change however if the public votes in favor of the proposed ordinance.
The issue was hotly debated by many. Those in favor of BYOB say that it would bring in more business and help the town financially in the midst of the country’s recession.
“I don’t want bars, I don’t want liquor stores or anything like that but give us the right to have a BYOB,” said Ed Cox.
“I’m looking to have more people enjoy my restaurant, to enjoy the food that’s served there,” said another supporter.
Opponents argue that allowing BYOB in Ocean City would severely damage the town’s family-friendly image.
“People chose to come to a place where there was no alcohol, so then to say ‘no you have to change that,’ it’s like living in a gated community, when you move in you know the restrictions,” said resident Peg Kendrick.
Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian, a staunch critic of BYOB, agreed that the issue should be put to a public vote during an earlier meeting, according to the Patch.
Many city council members are also against BYOB, claiming that the city’s family-friendly atmosphere for buyers and renters would be compromised.
“People buy here because there’s no alcohol,” said Councilman John Kemenosh. “They may all drink, and I certainly do and the town could float a battleship just with the booze that’s in the lockers in the homes, but they don’t serve it, they don’t permit it.”
Regardless of the latest loss for BYOB supporters, the debate is sure to go on.