Wildwoods' Officials Cautious With Open Container on Holiday Weekend

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WILDWOOD - Officials are preparing for a problem. What is there to do when the governor allows establishments to sell takeout cocktails, beer and wine but the town still prohibits public consumption?

“It’s going to come down to policing the situation. Public consumption is not allowed on the city streets. I’m not so sure how this is going to play out,” Wildwood Mayor Peter Byron said.

To assist restaurants and bars with the economic burden that having a holiday weekend with no dine-in service will cause, Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed a law allowing mixed drinks, draft beers, wine, etc. to be served to-go in a container with a lid.

However, the Jersey shore is unique, and Memorial Day is traditionally one of the biggest party weekends of the year. With the infrastructure that usually contains a majority of the mayhem all closed, the question of what the streets will look like is foremost on everyone’s mind.

“This is a very delicate weekend," Byron said. "I think if things go badly at the shore and people aren’t practicing the social distancing, and things such as, that and people are getting crazy on the boardwalk ...the governor has made it pretty clear he would be quick to pull the trigger closing beaches and boardwalks down if people aren’t respecting the social guidelines."

In North Wildwood, where most bars are in one concentrated area, a creative solution is being employed. Anyone who purchases alcohol may drink it next to the establishment from which they bought it. This scenario, officials hope, will limit open containers all over town.

“You have a very high concentration of licensed beverage establishments, number two, you have an influx of people on vacation," North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello said. "People’s mentality on vacation is much more relaxed. It’s a different animal. This is our way of trying to put some guard rails on it."

Byron said the same strategy wouldn’t work in Wildwood or most shore towns because the bars are spread out. Both mayors agree they will need to rely on the establishments to educate their patrons on what they can and cannot do with their to-go drinks.

“With everything else we have to enforce with regard to COVID-19, as well as the normal extreme with the busy workload for our police department, trying to enforce open-display laws while people are legally able to get to-go alcohol, that’s something that would tax our police department beyond any acceptable measure,” said Rosenello.

Some say by allowing the drinking near the establishments and not sending everyone home, North Wildwood is essentially creating outdoor bars.

“The governor created outdoor bars when he shut down every restaurant and signed a law permitting takeout alcohol. The governor created this situation. The local municipalities are left to deal with the ramifications and the management of it,” Rosenello said.

Rosenello estimates that there are 10,000 restaurant seats in the Wildwoods. He envisions problems with takeout food, like overwhelming amounts of trash the city will need to deal with, backed up kitchens because of no spacing in orders, and establishments producing less overall volume by cutting down to one point of sale. WILDWOOD - Officials are preparing for a problem. What is there to do when the governor allows establishments to sell takeout cocktails, beer and wine but the town still prohibits public consumption?

“It’s going to come down to policing the situation. Public consumption is not allowed on the city streets. I’m not so sure how this is going to play out,” Wildwood Mayor Peter Byron said.

To assist restaurants and bars with the economic burden that having a holiday weekend with no dine-in service will cause, Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed a law allowing mixed drinks, draft beers, wine, etc. to be served to-go in a container with a lid.

However, the Jersey shore is unique, and Memorial Day is traditionally one of the biggest party weekends of the year. With the infrastructure that usually contains a majority of the mayhem all closed, the question of what the streets will look like is foremost on everyone’s mind.

“This is a very delicate weekend," Byron said. "I think if things go badly at the shore and people aren’t practicing the social distancing, and things such as, that and people are getting crazy on the boardwalk ...the governor has made it pretty clear he would be quick to pull the trigger closing beaches and boardwalks down if people aren’t respecting the social guidelines."

In North Wildwood, where most bars are in one concentrated area, a creative solution is being employed. Anyone who purchases alcohol may drink it next to the establishment from which they bought it. This scenario, officials hope, will limit open containers all over town.

“You have a very high concentration of licensed beverage establishments, number two, you have an influx of people on vacation," North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello said. "People’s mentality on vacation is much more relaxed. It’s a different animal. This is our way of trying to put some guard rails on it."

Byron said the same strategy wouldn’t work in Wildwood or most shore towns because the bars are spread out. Both mayors agree they will need to rely on the establishments to educate their patrons on what they can and cannot do with their to-go drinks.

“With everything else we have to enforce with regard to COVID-19, as well as the normal extreme with the busy workload for our police department, trying to enforce open-display laws while people are legally able to get to-go alcohol, that’s something that would tax our police department beyond any acceptable measure,” said Rosenello.

Some say by allowing the drinking near the establishments and not sending everyone home, North Wildwood is essentially creating outdoor bars.

“The governor created outdoor bars when he shut down every restaurant and signed a law permitting takeout alcohol. The governor created this situation. The local municipalities are left to deal with the ramifications and the management of it,” Rosenello said.

Rosenello estimates that there are 10,000 restaurant seats in the Wildwoods. He envisions problems with takeout food, like overwhelming amounts of trash the city will need to deal with, backed up kitchens because of no spacing in orders, and establishments producing less overall volume by cutting down to one point of sale.

“Hopefully, within a couple weeks or less, the governor is going to open up to where they can have outdoor seating,” said Byron.

That timeline may largely be determined by how everything goes this weekend, a responsibility that isn’t being taken lightly.

“We don’t want to mess this up. We still have a big part of the summer ahead of us,” said Byron.

“Hopefully, within a couple weeks or less, the governor is going to open up to where they can have outdoor seating,” said Byron.

That timeline may largely be determined by how everything goes this weekend, a responsibility that isn’t being taken lightly.

“We don’t want to mess this up. We still have a big part of the summer ahead of us,” said Byron.

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