ATLANTIC CITY — Contrary to popular belief, drinking alcoholic beverages on the world’s most famous Boardwalk was not legal — until now.
Mayor Marty Small Sr. issued an executive order Monday temporarily permitting open consumption of alcoholic beverages on the Boardwalk, Gardner’s Basin and the Orange Loop.
City officials have campaigned for open alcohol container laws in the past, arguing that doing so would put the city on par with other tourist destinations, such as Key West, Florida and Nashville, Tennessee. Last December, City Council narrowly approved a resolution urging the state Legislature to act on a bill that would permit open alcohol containers in certain areas of the city.
State emergency and public health orders issued by Gov. Phil Murphy in response to the novel coronavirus provided an opportunity for the city to issue the temporary measure, according to officials.
The executive order permitting the consumption of alcoholic beverages in designated open container zones officially goes into effect Friday.
“We want to help out the people that are in business,” Small said Monday, standing in front of The Biergarten Atlantic City on the Boardwalk. “This shows the business community that this administration means business.”
City officials believe the new executive order will provide an additional opportunity for bars and restaurants to capitalize on the phased reopening of the economy, while still allowing for people to practice social distancing during the busy summer months.
Dino Dounoulis, general manager of The Biergarten and neighboring Bungalow Restaurant & Lounge, said that with outdoor dining reopening June 15, the new open-container order in Atlantic City will give struggling business owners a much-needed lifeline.
“It’s survival mode right now,” Dounoulis said. “But, I think, (open containers) should have been done years ago.”
Atlantic County’s three state representatives — Republican State Sen. Chris Brown and Democratic Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato — are prime sponsors in their respective chambers of legislation that would permanently allow open containers in Atlantic City’s Tourism District. The bills have not moved out of committee since being reintroduced earlier this year at the start of the new legislative session.
City officials are hopeful the temporary experiment with open containers is successful and lawmakers in Trenton will pass the legislation.