The residents of long-dry Ocean City will vote on a referendum on whether the Cape May County shore resort will allow restaurant patrons to bring their own beer or wine to enjoy with meals.

It's no small question. "America's Greatest Family Resort" was founded in 1879 as a Christian resort where the making and sale of alcohol was strictly verboten. Some restaurants allowed patrons to bring their own beer or wine until 1984 when a city ordinance prohibited it.

A ballot question in today's general election pits those who say local eateries need to allow BYOB service to thrive against traditionalists who fear it would damage the family-friendly nature of the town.

The Ocean City Restaurant Association began the campaign last year in support of BYOB service. They say the economy has been tough on local restaurants, and need the measure to compete with mainland dining spots. For example, many restaurants in nearby Somers Point and Marmora, either have liquor licenses or allow BYOB service, siphoning off guests in Ocean City.

The group gathered enough signatures to have the binding referendum held in November but withdrew the question after a court challenge to a similar ballot measure in North Jersey. At issue was language that would have limited the amount of beer and wine patrons could take to BYOB establishments.

Ocean City's new version does not set a limit.

If voters approve BYOB service today, it becomes effective immediately, but excludes hard liquor. Restaurants would not be forced to make the change. And owners would have discretion over when to offer the BYOB option.