Why is Ocean City a Dry Town?

While certain parts of New Jersey are in the embryonic stages of establishing government-sanctioned, medical marijuana facilities, on Tuesday, Ocean City residents will hold a vote to decide if their town should allow BYOB restaurants. Supporters of the change have been campaigning for weeks to end the county’s ban on alcohol, pointing to a loss of tourist revenue and, presumably, the fact that it’s the year 2012 .

Their City Council is firmly against it, and the Ocean City Tabernacle, which helped found the county in the late 19th century, is also resisting this leap into the 20th century. That said, I feel like now is an auspicious occasion to find out why Ocean City a dry county in the first place.

The short answer is simple: because it always was. Ocean City was founded by Methodists ministers (Ezra B. Lake pictured left) in 1879 and, for obvious reasons, they were firmly aligned with the whole temperance idea (early 20th century promotions described the city as “many churches; no saloons).

Smash cut to 120 years later, and the law is still the same, only now it’s been inextricably tied to Ocean City’s modern, “family-friendly” image, which is looking rather appealing these days considering that Wildwood is now Axe Body Spray’s 7th Circle of Hell.

To fight the repeal, the Ocean City Tabernacle has created joined forces with a Political Action Committee (NOBYOB), posting signs and circulating fliers which urge residents to vote against the measure. They maintain that the introduction of alcohol would threaten Ocean City’s reputation and, more specifically, a lack of legislation limiting alcohol consumption would cause the town to erode into some modern-day Gomorrah (Seaside Heights).

In a bizarre post that could have been pulled from the annals of Ocean City, Andrew Fasy writes, “…there will be those who abuse the privilege and engage in behavior that would damage our city’s family-friendly identity.” Another post refutes evidence that selling/allowing alcohol would jumpstart the local economy, “We have heard no specific reasoning as to how BYOB will benefit the restaurants or other businesses, only suppositions and vague promises…there is no guarantee that BYOB would have any significant impact… in fact, there is ample evidence to the contrary.”

As far as I can tell, the contrary “evidence” they’re referring to is the drop in tax income in surrounding shore towns- a decline which Ocean City has seen as well.

In America, only about 500 municipalities are considered “dry counties,” the majority of which are located in Southern states like Texas and Alabama. More importantly, data suggests that dry counties actually have “higher proportions of alcohol-related traffic crashes,” because residents have to drive further to get their hands on some spirits.

Suffice it to say, NOBYOB beefs up their argument with pretty lame excuses, which may actually work. One in particular points to the increased wait time caused by diners who dilly-dally over a bottle of wine, “…the other side of it is longer table waits for customers, which means less time on the Boardwalk or doing other activities.”

Really? This sounds like a hasty excuse from someone who doesn’t want you to do something but has no valid argument to convince you otherwise.

The vote will be held tomorrow, so tune in later this week to find out if Ocean City surrenders itself to the clutches of evil.

Source: Philly Burbs, NOBYOB, Philly.com, Wikipedia

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Chris Lipczynski

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