Boardwalk merchants want more input in BYOB

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OCEAN CITY — Proponents of “Bring Your Own Bottle” would like to see the concept appear on the ballot for the May 8 municipal election, and this time they have changed the parameters.

Last summer, they proposed an ordinance that would have limited the quantity of alcohol that could be brought and also prohibited BYOB on the boardwalk in the summer while permitting it in the off-season.

This time around, the ordinance does not speak to the quantity of alcohol, but prohibits BYOB on the boardwalk at any time, and that’s not sitting well with some boardwalk restaurateurs.

“I don’t agree,” said Joe Del Sordo, owner of Del’s Grill at 934 Boardwalk. Del Sordo has been on the boards since 1965.

“If all of the sudden the downtown gets it, but they say ‘Oh sorry, you can’t have it.’ Well, is that fair to the boardwalk restaurants?” he asked. “Maybe they don’t even want it, but if you allow a close competitor to have it, that’s not right. It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out because they didn’t get a lot of input from the boardwalk on this.”

Del Sordo said restaurants like Bob’s, Brown’s, Clancey’s and Ove’s would be perfect BYOB venues, but they couldn’t permit it while other restaurants a block or so off the boardwalk could.

“It creates an unfair situation,” he said. “I’d like to see BYOB, I’d go along, but somebody is going to stand up, rightfully so and say, ‘wait a minute.’

“I sort of understand where they’re going. In people’s minds the boardwalk is the crown gem of Ocean City, and what scares the daylights out of some people is people drinking on the boardwalk. They are afraid of people drinking on the boardwalk. The boardwalk is the golden mile, the yellow brick road. They’re so afraid the boardwalk would be destroyed and turned into something not family friendly. I don’t think that would happen.”

Del Sordo said he believes the thought behind excluding the boardwalk is to satisfy some of the people who have that fear. He said having or not having BYOB in the summer will not make or break him because he’s already packed every night.

“We’re a different environment, we’re not a dining environment,” he said. “We’re family oriented, quick service, some good food, we’re clean and efficient. Kids want to go on the rides, play golf and get some ice cream.”

Most boardwalk establishments, he said, are 25-minute dinners; you don’t go there for an hour and 25 minutes of “dining.”

“More of us are eating establishments versus dining,” he said. “Maybe there are some restaurants that could use the boost, and BYOB could open the door to some dining. Would a glass of wine or a cold beer help them? Maybe.”

He said BYOB matters to him only after Sept. 15.

“Not the summer, the summer is a different animal,” Del Sordo said. “A person like myself, or a potential buyer for my business, might think it would be nice in the off-season to have that option. So how is it fair that we don’t? Allowing BYOB might help us. Instead of going to Yesterday’s or to Somers Point they might say, ‘Hey, Del’s has great crab cakes let’s go to Del’s.’ I could have the game on TV and they could come here and watch the game, the guys, while the girls go shopping. That’s what I see happening.”

Del Sordo said BYOB proponents are missing the boat in a sense.

“We have this new bridge coming in, and everyone is saying how wonderful it is and they’re right, it is,” he said. “But it’s going to make it very easy for people to leave town. No, it won’t be an impediment, and that’s good, but on the flip side, it won’t be an impediment to them leaving. No longer will anyone be worried about leaving town because it might get stuck in the traffic.

“Everyone is struggling for a dollar now and it’s very difficult. The new causeway has Somers Point saying ‘c’mon over,’ easy in, easy out. It’s scary, there is no impediment. The family with a couple of kids can get over and back pretty easily and still hit the rides.”

Del Sordo said business on the boardwalk in the daytime is not so good lately.

“You can drive a car down the boardwalk in the middle of a sunny day; they’re all on the beach. On a cloudy day it’s a different story. Daytime business is weak, day traffic is down and it never used to be that way.

“BYOB is not the silver bullet, it may help some people off the beaten path, maybe it will stop that one family from going over the bridge,” he said. “Maybe they’ll stay in Ocean City rather than go over the bridge. It could give some businesses a boost, but it’s not guaranteed.

“It’s 2012, times have changed,” he said. “The pundits say, ‘Well, you knew when you came here it was a dry town.’ It’s hard to make a buck nowadays.

“Everyone in this town is good, good merchants, good citizens, good schools,” he said. “But we have big challenges. Every $20 they take out of your pocket hurts. You have government control and regulations, they’re breathing down your neck, you have insurance costs going up, taxes skyrocketing. I wish the best for everyone. I don’t know what the answer is.”



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