Dry since 1940, Shore town ponders allowing alcohol sales

Public domain image.

Public domain image.

Could booze soon be once again flowing in one Cape May County municipality?

Wildwood Crest is considering lifting the prohibition, in place since voters passed a referendum in 1940, and soliciting the opinions of residents.

Voters would once again be empowered to decide through the referendum process this November, if a required process is met, but there will be certain limitations, according to the municipality.

Officials say that since New Jersey law limits the issuance of liquor licenses based on a municipality’s total year-round population, Wildwood Crest would only be entitled to two licenses: retail consumption (restaurant/bar) and retail distribution (liquor store).

But even if a potential referendum passes, Wildwood Crest officials say they’re not required to issue any licenses. In a news release, the municipality says a liquor license sale would be a “one-time financial benefit,” adding that a license “could stimulate additional business grown in the business district.”

Borough officials note that “several professional planners” who have reviewed the proposal “have stated that the addition of one liquor consumption license is vital to a town that prides itself on being a tourism destination, particularly when all of Wildwood Crest’s surrounding communities all permit the sale of alcohol.”

A minimum of 212 registered voters must sign a petition and present it Wildwood Crest’s governing body, which would then adopt a resolution requesting the county to place it on the ballot.

In a post on the official Wildwood Crest Facebook page, many spoke out against alcohol sales.

“Stay dry. If I want booze, I can go right over the Rio Grande Bridge to Canals or a few blocks up to Wildwood. Or, right over the causeway to Cape May,” one resident wrote. “We just bought in the Crest last August. I like my neighbors and my neighborhood. Please, keep it dry.”

But another said access to alcohol within walking distance is a consideration.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have a cafe where you could walk to to have a glass of wine or a cold beer on a nice summer day. Or where summer guest could enjoy the same. YES,” the commenter quipped.

Wildwood Crest joins Cape May Point and Ocean City as Cape May County’s dry municipalities. In 2012, voters in Ocean City decided to not relax the law to allow BYOB at restaurants.

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