She leaned closer, and whispered about the threat of booze.
"I think the city should stay the way it is. If people don't like it, they can go somewhere else," Anne Grant said, still holding her hose. "We don't need people brown-bagging it all around town."
The issue of alcohol has fermented in Ocean City for decades and now, on one of the busiest weekends of the year, a controversial push to allow restaurant patrons to bring in alcohol, including to some boardwalk spots, is fresh on the minds of business owners, church groups, elected officials and longtime residents like Grant.
A proposed BYOB ordinance, which would allow one sixpack of beer per two patrons or a bottle of wine per one patron, has pitted the town's traditionalists against a large group of restaurant owners who can't see any harm if a couple uncorks a bottle of wine with their meal.
The restaurant owners, many affiliated with the Ocean City Restaurant Association, are collecting signatures on a petition to allow the public to vote in November on the ordinance.
"We're going about it in a respectful way. We want to protect the image of Ocean City," said Bill McGinnity, owner of Cousin's Restaurant, just a block from Grant's house. "The people should be able to decide."
Some who oppose BYOB think Ocean City's image as a safe, family-friendly town, a rare Jersey Shore resort with no public bars or liquor stores, would forever be altered. They fear BYOB is a slippery slope soaked with chardonnay - that could end someday in a pool of tequila shots.
"Everyone's talking about having a romantic dinner with their wife, but what comes with it is a bunch of frat boys from Wildwood spilling out of pizza joints onto the boardwalk after downing their six-packs for an hour - and I don't know anyone who wants that," said Todd Chamberlain, chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Ocean City Tabernacle.
The Tabernacle, a nondenominational Christian center with a sprawling campus near Ocean City's business district, is adamantly opposed to BYOB. Founded by Methodist clergymen who sailed there in 1879, the Tabernacle is also the reason Ocean City exists at all, why it had strict blue laws for decades and why it remains a dry town. Its founders always intended the city to be a "Christian Seashore Resort."
"The Tabernacle started the town, let's face it," said Councilman Keith Hartzell, a Tabernacle member. "They feel like they're the gatekeepers."
The "Don't Change Ocean City" signs, made by an anonymous donor, are available at the Tabernacle and other churches, and despite the city solicitor's contention that they're political signs, which are only legal 30 days before an election, no one's making private residences remove them.
McGinnity said he's not countering with pro-BYOB signs. He's more worried about filtering out misinformation and quelling what he sees as unwarranted fears over the proposal. Why would anyone from Wildwood or Sea Isle City, for example, come to the Ocean City boardwalk to share six-packs when they could drink far more in bars in those towns? he asked.
"People go to bars if they just want to drink," he said. "We're talking about people who want to have a drink with their meal in Ocean City."
While McGinnity was talking, a woman with a summer home in Ocean City came to Cousin's seeking to sign the petition. Since she's not one of the city's 11,700 full-time residents, though, she wouldn't have a vote.
"We never eat in Ocean City for that reason," said part-timer Dee Fiordaliso. "I don't know what the big deal is."
In January, Ocean City's council approved a nonbinding resolution to oppose "any effort to remove" the booze restriction in restaurants, even though no one had proposed to remove it .
Mayor Jay Gillian, whose family owns the largest amusement park in town, has been vocal in his opposition to BYOB. In the '80s, his father, Roy, was a vocal critic of the blue laws that kept the family's amusement park closed on Sundays when he was mayor. A spokeswoman for the amusement park said Jay Gillian still opposes BYOB.
Hartzell claims he's tried to stay neutral.
"It amounts to whether you like the town the way it is, whether you really like the tradition," he said. "If you think tradition doesn't matter and the alcohol can be controlled, people will vote for it."
Some in the anti-BYOB crowd admit they don't even think the public should be allowed to vote on it.
"No, I don't think it's worth voting on," said Carl Scheetz, a retired school superintendent and vice chairman at the Tabernacle.
Some BYOB supporters claim there's been an air of intimidation among the churches, with calls to boycott supportive businesses and ostracize anyone who lends support. City resident Michael Carlin, who said he supported the public's right to vote on the issue, allegedly received phone calls at home and was questioned at church about his stance, according to published reports.
"With that said, I value my relationships with family, friends and our church too much to jeopardize them over this issue. Therefore, I will not be part of any committee associated with BYOB," he said in a statement.
In some social circles, opposing BYOB is a must, but proponents think some folks may have a different opinion inside a polling booth.
"You might make a different choice in there," said Aimee Repici, owner of The Chatterbox and a supporter of the BYOB petition. "You don't have to tell anyone how you voted."
McGinnity didn't want to reveal the exact number of registered voters who have signed the petition. He needs at least 747 by the end of August and acknowledged he has "hundreds" so far. If the public votes no, he said he would accept it. If residents vote yes, Repici vowed it wouldn't eventually lead to bars and liquor stores.
"I would be the first one out in the street protesting a bar," she said.
If the BYOB crowd does get the signatures it needs and the issue heads to a vote, there's bound to be bigger fireworks come October and November than any you'll see there this weekend.
"People are afraid of the unknown," McGinnity said. "There was a time when the boardwalk was practically closed on Sundays here. There was hysteria over changing that, but we did. It's been a better city since."