(UPDATE) BYOB to go to public vote May 8

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OCEAN CITY — Council voted down an ordinance to allow “bring your own bottle” at Ocean City restaurants during it March 8 meeting. The issue will now go to a public vote on May 8.

On Feb. 28, petitioners submitted well over their required 352 signatures to have the BYOB ordinance considered by City Council, which were certified by the city clerk.

The ordinance will allow guests of restaurants – which meet certain requirements – to carry in and consume wine and malt beverages between certain hours. Supporters say this will improve the local economy. Opponents think it will negatively change the historically dry town.

Before going to a public hearing on the issue, solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said that City Council now has 20 days to act on the certified signatures and if no action is taken in 20 days, the petitioners have 10 days to withdraw the petition. If they do not, it will go on the ballot for May 8.

The issue was open for public comment. Resident David French said he can remember when the city’s blue laws were repealed providing an opportunity for businesses to cash in on the Sunday crowds.

“What would Ocean City be without that being amended,” he said. “I think that this should be passed or put on the ballot to let the people decide.”

Steve Cole said he was opposed to BYOB.

Ocean City, I think, is a terrific place. It’s going to be terrific even if we don’t have BYOB,” he said.

Cole said he would also like to see it go to referendum.

Steve Fenichel said it would be a good idea for City Council to sponsor a workshop with knowledgeable people on both sides of the issue.

“It will allow our community to be the most informed we can be when we vote,” he said.

Ed Price said he’d like council to vote “no” so that it may appear on the ballot.

Norma Lee Linforth said she is against the whole idea of BYOB.

“I just think it would no longer be ‘America’s Greatest Family Resort,’” she said.

Council members were upfront that they wanted it to go to a public vote.

“Here we are again, BYOB,” Councilman Scott Ping said. “This is a decision that cannot be made by us.”

Ping said that to change the city code to allow BYOB changes the charter of the town and the public has to decide on that issue, not the seven members of council.

Councilman John Kemenosh said that he cannot support BYOB because it goes against what Ocean City was founded on and what families come for.

Councilman Tony Wilson called the issue “devisive” and said, “This needs to go to referendum.”

“I think it should be decided by everyone who is a registered voter,” Councilman Roy Wagner said, adding that he was against it personally.

Councilman Keith Hartzell said this time around, the discussion on BYOB has been more cordial.

“This is a huge issue,” he said. “I just want to say good work this time around.”

Councilwoman Karen Bergman said that it was “about time this goes to a referendum.”

“It will change the flavor of the town,” she said.

Council President Michael Allegretto agreed that the issue needed to be decided by the public and not council, and all seven members voted against the ordinance.

If the petitioners do not rescind the question, it will appear on the May 8 ballot.

For more information on the BYOB supporters, see sdpoc.bbnow.org.

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