Ocean City Residents Vote On BYOB Ordinance

Updated May 9, 2012 — Voters overwhelmingly voted “no” Tuesday to a proposal that would allow diners to bring beer and wine to eateries.

Today in Ocean City, a historic vote in a historically dry town. Residents went to the polls to vote on an ordinance that would permit diners to bring their beer or wine into the beach town’s restaurants.

Ocean City resident Bob Hutchinson, who voted against the ordinance, thinks permitting BYOB service in Ocean City restaurants will ruin the town. Said Hutchinson, “There’s a town called the Jersey Shore and I don’t want Snookies here.”

Marketed as “America’s Greatest Family Resort,” the beach community has been a dry town since it was established more than a century ago. The ordinance would permit diners to bring their own beer or wine to restaurants with no limit set on the quantity, but it does exclude boardwalk establishments. Businesses would still be prohibited from selling alcohol in the beach community.

Bill McGinnity, vice president of the Ocean City Restaurant Association, helped spearhead the initiative more than a year ago.

McGinnity said, “This isn’t about our July and August. Our July and August is great here. This is about our April, May, September, October, November. This is also about choice. Right now, if you live here year round or you’re a tourist here, you don’t have a choice to come to a restaurant in Ocean City with a bottle. You’re forced to leave the island and spend your money off the island.”

Gary Wallace who has lived in Ocean City for the past 40 years said “I don’t think the restaurants in Ocean City have a chance without some form of BYOB,” said Gary.

But residents like Jennifer McCusker like Ocean City just the way it is, saying “I can easily just drive over the bridge and have a drink with dinner.”

Ocean City’s mayor doesn’t support the ordinance and says the city’s legacy is on the line.

Said Mayor Jay Gillian, “We have an image and we have a brand and it concerns me when we mess with that. It’s going to change the image, there’s no question about it. We just have to remind ourselves that tourism is what gives us what we have …. It’s scary.”

But McGinnity insists the measure will not only help his restaurant, but every business in town. “Every year, it gets harder. Food costs is up; labor costs is up, insurance costs is up.” he said. “Twenty years ago, 15 years ago, you could work your business, you could get a strong three months out of it and get through the year. You can’t do that anymore.“

Lauren Wanko reports from Ocean City.