Don’t risk reputation on promise of BYOB
By: Andrew Fasy PressOfAtlanticCity.com
On May 8, Ocean City residents will vote on a Bring Your Own Bottle ordinance being championed by a small group of local restaurant owners. The vast majority of Ocean City business owners, residents, visitors and city officials with whom we’ve had discussions oppose this idea. This is a classic case of substantial risk far outweighing very limited potential reward.
Ocean City is one of the most successful destinations along the Jersey shore because of our longstanding reputation as “America’s Greatest Family Resort.” Our town is often glowingly described as “clean,” “safe,” “wholesome” and ”family-friendly.” And it is precisely those qualities that our quality of life and our economic success revolve around. Passage of the BYOB ordinance would pose a direct threat to that. The proposed ordinance excludes Boardwalk restaurants from allowing alcohol, but it is possible – and even likely - that this exclusion would be challenged in court. Legal experts think it is likely that such a challenge would succeed. In that case, the ordinance would be amended to allow alcohol in Boardwalk restaurants, a prospect that makes a bad idea even worse.
This is not about responsible adults enjoying a glass of wine with dinner, which may sound appealing. It’s about the reality that there will be those who abuse the privilege and engage in behavior that would damage our city’s family-friendly identity. Remember, there are now no limits on how much alcohol can be consumed under this ordinance.
Mark Soifer, Ocean City’s respected publicist for 40 years and a tireless promoter of the city, has stated, “Time after time, visitors and residents have told me what they like about Ocean City is its clean, friendly atmosphere free of public consumption of alcohol. Time after time, people who work in the tourism industry have told me there are many resorts that wished they had the personality and image of Ocean City. …Any loss or diminishment of the city’s enviable reputation will undermine our economy and, most importantly, undermine the quality of life that visitors and residents have come to expect.”
We are not insensitive to the needs and interests of local restaurant owners struggling in a down economy. Our intent is to preserve what’s in the best interests of our residents, our visitors, our businesses, and the community overall. It is worth noting that not all restaurant owners in Ocean City support this initiative. Some feel it would be detrimental for the reasons stated above. Others worry that it would cause patrons to linger over their wine and beer long after their meal, delaying the ability to turn over tables to those waiting. We have heard no specific reasoning as to how BYOB will benefit the restaurants or other businesses, only suppositions and vague promises. In reality, there is no guarantee that BYOB would have any significant impact on Ocean City restaurants. And, in fact, there is ample evidence to the contrary.
Proponents cite Collingswood and Haddonfield as examples of towns where BYOB has been successful. Consider that there are 166,000 people residing within a 3-mile radius of Collingswood and 112,500 within a 3-mile radius of Haddonfield. There are only 17,000 residents within that same radius of downtown Ocean City. As for the argument that BYOB would help year-round business for Ocean City restaurants, consider that there are two restaurants in neighboring Strathmere and eight in Sea Isle City that have BYOB, and all of them close during the off-season.
Ocean City has lost about 25 percent of its year-round population over the past decade. Other barrier island communities have experienced similar declines. Our business community as a whole has a serious challenge to find ways to attract more customers and generate revenues from a shrinking population. It is not a problem unique to Ocean City.
What is unique is our reputation as a family friendly hometown/resort, and the niche we have carved out over these many years. Whether you are new to our community or your family has been here for generations, you know the value of our “brand” and the importance of protecting it.
Please stand up and make your voice heard. Vote to preserve the Ocean City we all love. For more information and to add your support, please visit www.NoBYOB.com.
Andrew Fasy is chairman of the Committee to Preserve Ocean City.
Posted in Commentary on Thursday, April 5, 2012 12:01 am.
Ordered and Paid for by the Committee to Preserve Ocean City, Ken Cooper, Treasurer