"Ocean City is probably one of the most successful resorts along the Jersey Shore ... maybe in the country. To risk that in any way, to alter that for questionable results, is fool's gold," Fasy said.
His group, the Committee to Preserve Ocean City, has launched a website (www.nobyob.com) and will likely hold informational sessions and distribute lawn signs and literature to press its case, he said.
Founded as a Methodist retreat in the 1880s, Ocean City is one of the last dry towns on the Jersey Shore. The resort markets its squeaky-clean brand to families, who are drawn to its beach, boardwalk, and other child-friendly attractions. The town's population increases tenfold, to more than 150,000, in the summer.
But in the off-season, its dining establishments struggle, says Bill McGinnity, vice president of the Ocean City Restaurant Association, which gathered the signatures that have landed the BYOB question on the ballot. (City Council - which opposes the measure - could have implemented the BYOB rule based on the petition alone, but refused.)
Ocean City restaurateurs hope to "level the playing field" with BYOB eateries in neighboring towns, said McGinnity, who owns Cousin's Restaurant on Asbury Avenue. Their association has set up its own website (www.sdpoc.bbnow.org) to advocate the pro-BYOB position.
Not all restaurant owners are on board with the BYOB proposal, which could go into effect by Memorial Day weekend if approved.
Dave Cates, who owns Piccini Brick Oven Pizza, is not in favor of it. In tourist season, he said, turnover at his West Avenue eatery could slow if patrons lingered over a bottle of wine or a few beers. Additional winter revenue would be unlikely to offset what he could lose in the summer, Cates said.
Restaurants would not be required to become BYOBs under the plan, according to the city, and boardwalk establishments are excluded from the measure.
An earlier petition by the restaurant association - which the group withdrew after legal wrangling over whether the ballot question could limit how much alcohol a patron may bring in - was met with vehement opposition by the Ocean City Tabernacle Association, the largest local religious organization.
The tabernacle, with roots stretching to the resort's Methodist founding fathers, cited land-use covenants that restrict the sale and public consumption of alcohol in the 11-square-mile community.
On its website and at church services, it urged members to boycott eateries that supported the measure. The organization distributed lawn signs, lapel pins, and bumper stickers that read "Don't Change Ocean City."
This time, the tabernacle has been relatively quiet. Though its website states its opposition to the BYOB effort, it refers visitors to the Committee to Preserve Ocean City.
Richard Stanislaw, president of the tabernacle, could not be reached for comment.
Fasy said his group was not affiliated with any religious group. And he said it had nothing to do with an anonymous "robo-call" phone survey that apparently dialed hundreds of local numbers last month to query residents on the BYOB question.
Supporters of the measure have cited other dry municipalities, such as Collingswood and Haddonfield, that permit BYOBs. The practice has attracted new customers to the towns' business districts, they say.
"There is one big difference that we see between us and them: They don't have 150,000 people coming into their towns all at once, like we do," Fasy said. "Ocean City is a special place . . . in a lot of different ways."
The Ocean City restaurateurs do not want to sell alcoholic beverages, they say. Nor do they want to see liquor stores made legal in town.
At the other end of Cape May County, West Cape May is experimenting with both possibilities.
In a nonbinding 2008 referendum, residents voted to allow the town to sell two liquor licenses, one to a restaurant and the other for a package-goods store, as a way to curb tax increases.
A liquor store will open in May, ending West Cape May's 128-year ban on alcohol sales. There have been no bidders for the restaurant liquor license.
Contact Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.