OCEAN CITY - If restaurant owners hope to succeed in relaxing the city's strict alcohol prohibitions, they will have to do so without the help of City Council.
Council passed a resolution Thursday, expressly opposing the practice of letting customers bring their own alcohol to dinner at local restaurants - a practice called Bring Your Own Bottle or BYOB.
Council President Michael Allegretto said the resolution was necessary to clear up any ambiguity over the issue.
Some restaurant owners are waging an Internet campaign to promote the idea. They have more than 700 supporters on Facebook.
But Council members said they would not budge on the issue, echoing the position stated earlier by Mayor Jay Gillian.
Councilman Keith Hartzell said public polls in 2002 and 2006 showed most residents have a strong desire to keep the prohibitions in place.
"An overwhelming number of people just don't want it. It's not about economics. It's about values and ethics," he said. "I'm not against someone running a referendum at all. I'd be glad to hit the streets. I'll go to every neighborhood and talk to people."
City resident Edna Streaker-May said she was pleased to see council state its objections.
"I believe this is the way to follow the founders of Ocean City as a Christian resort," she said.
BYOB supporters are considering their next move, which might include a public ballot question. That is how Ocean City residents overturned the city's Blue Laws banning Sunday sales in 1986 - a holdover from the resort's founding by Methodist ministers.
Ocean City resident Sandy Simpson said she is a supporter of BYOB.
"I feel as though it's a way of offering hospitality, dining enjoyment and freedom to our visitors, dining guests and residents," she said. "It would create traffic and hopefully help some other businesses, too."
Simpson suggested the supporters take time to win over opponents without becoming divisive.
Brigantine resident John Cicarelli, a retired seafood restaurant owner, warned that restaurateurs could face harsh legal penalties for their inebriated customers.
"You're opening a can of worms here because of the liability," he said. "They don't know what they're exposing themselves to."
Council voted 5-0 to oppose BYOB. Councilmen Scott Ping and John Kemenosh were absent Thursday.
Councilman John Flood said he would be willing to reconsider specific changes in the city's local laws. But he would not agree to generic permissions for BYOB that presumably would include the city's Boardwalk and outdoor cafes.
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