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Ocean City Restaurant Owners Try Unique Approach To Increase Revenue

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OCEAN CITY, N.J. (CBS) – Ocean City is probably the most well-known dry town in the Philadelphia area, but by this time next year, a group of restaurant owners are hoping their customers will be able to have a drink with dinner.

Just as long as those diners bring it with them.

Several restaurant owners say it’s no secret that diners leave the island by the car full every night, year round in search of a drink, but letting customers bring their own alcohol – wine or beer – would help stem that tide. They’re hoping to ask the voters to approve B.Y.O. or “bring your own” restaurants and are about to begin collecting signatures to get the issue put on this November’s ballot.

“I do a good lunch business, but I don’t do a good dinner business because there are residents who won’t eat dinner here if they can’t enjoy a glass of wine,” said Kevin Scull, owner of Scully’s Asbury Café. “We’re giving them the option to stay on the island which in our opinion will help everybody.”

“I’ve had a tremendous amount of people that live on the island year round that would come to my place if they could bring a bottle of wine to enjoy with their meal,” said Bill McGinnity, owner and chef at Cousin’s Restaurant. He says he’d be able to keep Cousin’s open year round with the change. Right now, it’s only open April until October.

“I have a business that I have a 12 month mortgage, 12 month utility bills that I now have only seven weeks to produce the income for that.”

But several city officials say they don’t think this is such a great idea. Ocean City, after all, has been dry since it was founded as a Methodist retreat in the 1870s.

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“It’s like buying a house next to an airport and then asking the airport to close,” said Mayor Jay Gillian, who’s against the change. “We are ‘America’s Greatest Family Resort.’ This is our brand.”

Mayor Gillian says he believes it would change the town’s character, but the restaurant owners say Ocean City would still be considered “dry.” Even if customers are permitted to bring their own alcohol, it would still be illegal to sell alcohol in this beach resort.

“We don’t want bars, night clubs or liquor stores. We don’t want to sell it. We just want people to be able to enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner,” said Scull.

For now, the restaurant owners are working to re-write the ordinance before they begin collecting signatures. They need about 780 signatures of registered Ocean City voters to get the issue put on the ballot. They’re hoping to have all the signatures collected by this August.

Reported by Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3

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