By GARY A. PYNE
Although we are not voting residents of Ocean City we are longtime property owners and subscribe to the Sentinel to keep up with the goings on when we are away. BYOB is the issue of the moment and all indications are that the opponents will have their way as they usually do in Ocean City.
The objections to BYOB are primarily: (1) fear that Ocean City will fall into ruin brought on by drunks flocking in from the bars in Somers Point, Sea Isle City, Margate and other surrounding “wet” towns to drink, fight, and generally trash our community or (2), some business owners are pushing this to benefit financially at the expense of... I don’t know who.
Why would college drinkers – or anyone out for drinks – want to leave their deck or real bars to sit in a little restaurant in Ocean City? A recent letter to the editor argued that the current laws go unenforced in Ocean City so BYOB will lead to even more bad behavior.
Let’s get real.
People are not going to overrun our town to sit in a 15 to 20 table restaurant and get loaded.
If they tried for some reason I cannot imagine, the restaurateur would run them off since he did not sell the drinks and cannot make money with people occupying tables drinking. If you have not visited Fish Alley in Sea Isle you have missed seeing families, grandparents, parents and children together, overlooking the bay while enjoying fresh seafood and their BYOB beer and wine on a lovely summer evening.
You won’t see drunks, fights or trash, just people having a nice time. We could have that here as well. Also, a corking fee could be accessed to bring revenue to the city. Maybe we wouldn’t have to stick it to the poor shoobies with higher parking costs.
The second common objection is that restaurant speculators would somehow gain an advantage over someone. On the front page of the April 18 Sentinel the president of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce says, “...everybody wants something that will draw people downtown,” and a recent report emphasized the importance of dining to our town.
What about some of those empty storefronts becoming nice little restaurants with BYOB wine and beer service? Just maybe many would benefit from keeping hundreds and hundreds of visitors on the island instead of losing them every single night. Another recent letter argued that our restaurants are too small to accommodate BYOB service. Again, some of those empty storefronts would no longer be empty and they would attract shoppers to other businesses before and after dining.
Other towns have figured out how to do this without losing their identity or essential good qualities and so can Ocean City. I think that for many voters in Ocean City the problem may be that they see any change as a threat and bad. For example, we couldn’t have a bike path on the old railroad right-of-way for a number of foolish reasons (safety, lighting, cost) but it all boiled down to, “we don’t need it” or “the wetlands will be destroyed.” Just Google Map the back bay and then try to imagine the percentage of wetlands that would have been impacted. But I digress.
The beautiful new bridge and causeway could have been a catalyst to a more vibrant and believe it or not, improved Ocean City. Instead the city spent the last 10 years arguing over what kind of wood to put on the Boardwalk (with little progress) and allowing the 34th Street entrance to remain a huge eyesore. Those who believe that Ocean City can remain successful without change may also be the people who see the Doo Dah parade as a great Ocean City highlight. The town needs to wake up and smell the (Starbucks) coffee.
Gary A. Pyne has homes in Ocean City, N.J., and Baltimore, Md.