It’s not terribly surprising that Ocean City’s BYOB movement was voted down. On Tuesday, Ocean City residents voted on whether or not non-boardwalk restaurants could allow BYOB. The answer was a resounding “are you kidding?” with 3,365 no votes to 1,526 yes votes. That’s more than a 2-to-1 ratio.
In the process, the town generated a lot of bad press for itself, culminating in an Associated Press story that hit the wire last night and traveled around the country.
Why is this bad press? Because it cast a national spotlight on a 16-month fight that had turned petty over whether or not a handful of restaurants could let people bring beer or wine to dinner. The debate made residents look more like children then concerned citizens (an alleged fight, yes and no lawn signs — and then fights over yes or no lawn signs, robo calls, etc.) It’s a fight that looked even more ridiculous given that the rhetoric reached a crescendo on the same night that people in North Carolina were voting on an actual important issue —same-sex marriage — that will gravely affect people’s lives.
I love Ocean City, but the pettiness over the BYOB issue has me looking at the town that proclaims itself as family friendly with a wary eye. I get small town politics. I own a home in Collingswood, N.J. which has its own boatload of local squalls, and I have written extensively about the nuances of historic preservation laws in Cape May. But it’s rare that town politics spill over into the national arena to this extent over an issue that would have affected only a handful of people.
So, as I said in April, it’s time to move on. Get ready for the summer. Ocean City has a lot of making up to do, both within its borders, and in how it’s seen by the rest of the country.