Police could run out of tickets in one weekend if they cracked down on alcohol on the Jersey Shore’s beaches, but at least one municipality — known to be a little rowdier than the rest — has drawn a thin blue line in the sand.
Commissioners in Wildwood, Cape May County, one of the Jersey Shore’s most popular destinations, retooled an ordinance Wednesday night to prohibit “the consumption, display or possession of alcohol on the beach and boardwalk.
“Wait, it was allowed before?,” one woman commented on Watch the Tramcar Please, a Facebook group dedicated to all things Wildwood.
Drinking alcohol on the beach — any beach —has long been a look-the-other-way issue at the Jersey Shore. Beachgoers pour their drinks into red plastic cups or keep them hidden by a foam beer koozie, leaving at day’s end, ideally, with all their empty cans.
Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron said Wednesday night’s ordinance isn’t new, but new language eliminates some gray area around alcohol. The ordinance now includes all containers, open or closed.
“Drinking has always been illegal on the beach and boardwalks, from like the beginning of time,” Byron told The Inquirer on Thursday. “All this has done, has given the police more of a fighting chance. Now, if they see a six-pack of beer on a beach blanket, it doesn’t matter if it’s open or closed. Common sense would tell you, these people didn’t bring the beer to exercise with it. They’re drinking it.”
Following in line with Sea Isle City’s and Ocean City’s steps to crack down on unruly teens, Wildwood also now designates underage drinking, alcohol possession, and other offenses as “breach of peace” violations.
Although violators could face fines of as much as $2,000 and potentially 90 days in jail, Byron said, the goal of Wildwood’s beefed-up drinking bans isn’t to ruin anyone’s vacation. He said first offenders will likely be warned and asked to throw the alcohol away or take it back to a car, hotel, or house.
“This is not a cash grab,” Byron said. “Are people still going to bring alcohol to the beach? Probably. We’re looking for the worst offenders.”
In 2018, Wildwood police approached a 20-year-old Philadelphia woman on the beach and questioned her about some nearby alcohol. They also asked her to take a breathalyzer test. The woman passed the test and the alcohol wasn’t hers, but an altercation ensued and a police officer pulled her hair, slammed her to the ground, and punched her twice.
Byron said the alcohol laws do not affect bars on the boardwalk or the occasional event with permitted alcohol on the beach.
The updated ordinance was to go into effect 20 days after passage.