Restaurants everywhere occasionally host private parties where alcoholic beverages are served or you can bring your own.
Even in Ocean City, founded by Methodists as a religious community and a dry town since 1909, for decades some restaurants have hosted private gatherings to which people bring wine, beer and such. A handful now occasionally host private meals for dinner clubs whose dues-paying members bring their favorite beverages.
Now a group of residents is trying to stamp out this right to privately enjoy drinks in restaurants that at other times are open to the public and dry. In a 2012 referendum, voters rejected allowing customers to bring their own wine or beer to restaurants open to the public.
These residents say they are motivated to protect Ocean City’s economy and reputation as America’s Greatest Family Resort. But their spurious accusations suggest they’re on a moral crusade rather than motivated by reason.
For starters, they claim that the city’s image and real estate values are being undermined by eight dinner clubs occasionally getting together. But Ocean City’s economy and reputation have been better than ever, and property values have risen strongly. The dinner-club foes offer no evidence to the contrary.
They claim city officials are failing to uphold the law, but state law clearly allows private gatherings with alcohol.
They claim residents voted against private dinner clubs too in the 2012 referendum, when in fact they only rejected allowing patron-provided alcohol at any city restaurant open to the public.
And the dinner club foes also claim to know what’s in the minds and hearts of the people and restaurants participating in private dinner club get-togethers — that their “real goal” is to get bars and liquor licenses into the dry town. Yet, again, they offer not a shred of evidence for this.
Dinner club members and participating restaurants say they just occasionally want to be able to have a drink with dinner without having to drive off the island, and restaurant operators say they just like the extra business for themselves and their staffs.
Finally, the foes claim that dinner clubs prompt more instances of drunken driving, but a moment of rational thought strongly suggests the opposite — that they reduce the number of people who might drive to mainland communities, drink and then drive back to Ocean City.
There is value and resiliency in allowing a degree of variety and individuality in a community. Allowing behaviors in private that are routinely accepted nearly everywhere surely enhances that value, and may well have helped reduce support for changing the city’s BYOB ban. Mandating uniformity is a sure way to provoke individuality and the assertion of rights in America.
Opponents say dinner clubs are “going to ruin our brand.”
There’s no worry about that unless priggishness is part of Ocean City’s brand.