Friday Foodstuffs 1.28.11: Ocean City Stays Dry…For Now (and Granddad Howard Can Rest Easy)

Somewhere up there, and I mean the Big Up There, my grandfather is breathing a little easier.

Even though he passed away fifteen years ago, I am sure that my granddad was peering in on the latest activity taking place in Ocean City – where the issue of alcohol has come up yet again. If you’re one of the last people left on this planet who isn’t aware of it, Ocean City still maintains its status as a dry community; the town was founded by Methodists ministers back in 1879 who were dead set against the consumption of alcohol. Being a dry community simply means is that alcohol cannot be sold or consumed in public places. In the case of Ocean City, you can still go over the bridge to Somers Point, buy alcohol, and bring it back to drink in the privacy of your home. But you cannot have a glass of wine at a restaurant, even if you want to bring your own. And this is the issue that is becoming a point of contention between the Ocean City Council and the Ocean City Restaurant Association. To put it simply: OCRA wants to allow restaurants to be BYOB if they choose, and the council is firmly opposed to it – and believes that they have an overwhelming majority of people in the community backing them.

The latest maneuvers in this saga: the OCRA hired an attorney on Monday to began a fact-finding mission regarding bring-your-own, and the council responded in turn on Thursday with a resolution that opposes “any effort to remove the prohibition of consuming alcoholic beverages in restaurants, cafes and food establishments.” The vote was unanimous. But the lines have been drawn, and things may not stay so civil in this well-known family resort.

The arguments on both sides are pretty straightforward. The council will tell you that Ocean City has built its reputation as a great place for families because of their stance against alcohol, and that allowing anything that would relax that position would tarnish the image of Ocean City. Even worse, it may even start the town down a slippery slope that would eventually allow bars and liquor stores to exist there as well. To that, the Restaurant Association would counter that allowing adults the ability to enjoy a bottle of wine with their meal would not take away from Ocean City’s image as being family friendly, and would help restaurants increase business – especially during the off-season.

So what do I think? Well, I know what my grandfather would say. After all, he was a Methodist minister for over fifty years and at one time was pastor of a church in Somers Point. Granddad Howard was an old-school Methodist minister, which meant he believed in no dancing, no card playing, and most certainly no alcohol. At the last family wedding he attended before he passed away, the reception had no music and no alcohol. Granddad Howard would be in full support of the council’s decision.

For me, I have to side with the Restaurant Association (sorry Granddad). I know how important it is to Ocean City to maintain its image as a family resort. After all, tourism is such a big part of the community. But to say that allowing restaurants to be BYOB would tarnish that image is a harshly extreme position to take. As one of the members of the OCRA noted, you can enjoy a glass of wine at Disney World, and you can’t get more family-oriented than Disney. And isn’t dining out a big part of tourism? Why add an extra level of difficulty for restaurants to overcome in bringing in business? Some time back, we were talking to a dining expert in the area about a report that had come out listing Ocean City as one of the ten best places in the country to open a new restaurant. The expert’s immediate response was that every restaurant owner in Ocean City would dispute that report’s findings.

All the OCRA is asking for is to put it up for a vote. Have a referendum and let the community decide. If the support that the council believes they have is there, then they have nothing to worry about on this issue. And neither will my grandfather.

Even though we got hit with more snow this week, there is a thawing out taking place; more food events are beginning to fill up the calendar. Even this weekend looks to be pretty busy with food fun. Tonight you have a trio of wine events: a Pacific Rim Wine Dinner at the Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield, a Wine and Cheese Pairing Class at Sharrott Winery in Blue Anchor, and a Wine Dinner at Wedgwood Country Club in Turnersville. Tonight is also the start of the Greek Winter Feast at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Egg Harbor Township. The feast starts at 5PM tonight and at 12PM on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday is a big day in Mount Holly, with the Fire & Ice Festival and Winter Beer Fest taking place. FYI – the 3PM session of the Winter Beer Fest is sold out, so if you’re looking to walk up and get in, the 1PM session is your only option. Also on Saturday is the Winter Wine Fest at the Holy Eucharist Church in Tabernacle (boy, Granddad would have lots to say about that) and the Sup-R-Bowl of Chili Challenge at the Lakehurst Community Center.

On Sunday, Tropicana Casino and Resort will be having its annual Festival Carnivale de Tropicana, despite the minor ceiling collapse that occurred over Corky’s.

Sharrott Winery is having a BYOG Weekend on Saturday and Sunday. BYOG? Bring your own glass, that is. But it has to be a stemmed glass, so no Big Glup cups, ‘kay? Prizes to the most unique glasses will be awarded.

If you’re kicking yourself (which is kind of silly, but whatever floats your boat) that you missed the tequila dinner at Tortilla Press Cantina in Pennsauken or the haggis served on Robert Burns’ birthday at The British Chip Shop in Haddonfield, you are in luck! The haggis, tatties and neeps will be making an encore appearance on Sunday at the Chip Shop. And due to the weather, the tequila dinner has been rescheduled to February 3.

Now, on to the cooking class schedule:

Tonight: Modern Steakhouse Classics at Sur La Table in Marlton.

Tomorrow: Family Fun: Healthy Cooking with Chop Chop Magazine at Sur La Table, a Champagne Brunch at Viking Cooking School in Atlantic City, a Gluten Free Cooking Demo at the Cape May Court House Library, and Caribbean Couples at Kitchen Kapers in Moorestown.

Sunday: Knife Skills with Wusthof at Sur La Table and Kids in the Kitchen – Super Bowl Snacks at Kitchen Kapers.

Blogging Out Hunger

The annual Baked Ziti Dinner for World Hunger will be going on Saturday at 4:30PM at the Zion Lutheran Church in Egg Harbor City. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for kids under 12.

The Gloucester County Cares About Hunger Food Drive will be held from February 21 to 25.

When they start working on new Community FoodBank building in Egg Harbor, the mural on the old place may not be saved. That would be a shame.

And in the news this week…

A bill that would provide state signage for Jersey wineries was approved by the State Assembly.

Schar Inc, a leading gluten-free food producer in Europe, is building a new plant in Logan Twp. Work starts in March.

Another grocery store may be preparing to take a chance and open in Atlantic City.

On a related note, a bill was brought up this week to help people who live in ‘food deserts’.

Though still a very small portion of the market, the demand for sustainable meat continues to rise.

Breakfast on a Ferris wheel? Sure. Mixed drinks as well? Well, maybe not.

Depot Market Cafe in Cape May may be losing its parking so that Elmira Street can be widened to accommodate two-way traffic.

And Krispy Kreme in Collingswood is coming closer to reality.

Have a great weekend!

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One thought on “Friday Foodstuffs 1.28.11: Ocean City Stays Dry…For Now (and Granddad Howard Can Rest Easy)

  1. Must respectfully disagree with your position on Ocean City and BYOBs. First, being dry is what makes Ocean City unique, and a superior place to raise families and bring families on vacation. Remember the first rule of marketing? The USP? Find a unique selling proposition! The families that live in OCNJ and the tourists that make it a world-class destination, year after year, do so BECAUSE it is dry.

    Two questions:

    1. Can you identify one place where the introduction of alcohol has IMPROVED living conditions? Where it has LOWERED the crime rate?

    2. How will the “affected” restaurant owners benefit from a BYOB rule change? From a miniscule “corkage” fee? To say they will gain more business is ridiculous; presently, one can’t find a seat in ANY Ocean City restaurant from Memorial Day through Labor Day. If a restaurant is lacking in business, chances are good that the problem is NOT a lack of booze!

    Anyone who wishes operate a restaurant in OCNJ does so with the understanding that it’s an historically dry town. Hundreds of restaurants have succeeded in OCNJ under this arrangement. If someone wishes to operate a BYOB, it’s simple – go to one of the 565 OTHER municipalities in NJ where it is allowed! Please let OCNJ retain its charm, and remain one-of-a-kind with its alchol-free community, the polar opposite of Seaside Heights.

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