By David Madden and Jericka Duncan
OCEAN CITY, NJ (CBS) – Residents of Ocean City, New Jersey go to the polls today to decide whether to allow restaurant customers off the boardwalk to bring their own wine or beer to the dinner table in what has been a dry town for decades.
Over the years, the BYOB debate has been intense. Some are even fearful to discuss it in public because of the reaction they might get from neighbors.
Some have even coined a term: “Switzerland” to show their public neutrality, although they clearly have their minds made up.
Others, like longtime Ocean City resident Paul DiFillippo, are happy to voice their opposition and put lawn signs out to prove it. But both sides are getting their point across.
“They took full-page ads out with all the names that signed the petitions saying ‘we want that.’ And others — another full page ad saying ‘we don’t want that.'”
It’s clear this town is split over the issue. Just how split, we’ll find out Tuesday night.
And in a place known as America’s Greatest Family Resort, opponents are worried the BYOB policy will ruin the city’s reputation.
“I’m voting no, I like things just they way they are,” said Liz Stamm.
“It’s only a matter of time before there are beer cans everywhere,” added resident Jeff Pagano.
Amy Repici disagrees. She’s the owner of Chatterbox restaurant. To her, having alcohol is a normal part of the dining experience.
“Have them come into dinner and bring a bottle wine or six-pack of beer with them and sit down and have dinner–they can stay in our town,” she said.
And despite disagreements, Michelle Gillian, the mayor’s wife and Executive Director of the city’s Chamber of Commerce, suggests most people have kept the debate civil.
“Last year, I think it was much more controversial. This year, both sides have been very willing to discuss the issues.”
Longtime resident Joyce Kazoun hopes the community can move forward after the votes are in.
“It’s going to take awhile, just like any wound. It heals and I think with the change, if it has to change, we have to go with it and make it for the best.”
Many on the boardwalk, like Bunny Shore, don’t live here, but they do care about BYOB.
“We’d come more often and eat in the restaurants, which are all wonderful, if we could bring our own bottle.”
Turnout for today’s vote is expected to be high. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. If passed indoor and non-boardwalk establishments, could offer BYOB, immediately. For the latest results, go to www.ocnj.us/election.