Officials in a southern New Jersey resort community where alcohol sales have been banned for decades have voted against letting restaurant patrons bring their own wine or beer to have with a meal.

But Thursday’s vote by the Ocean City Council sets up a ballot battle over the issue, which will be decided by a referendum in the May election.

The ordinance that was rejected would have allowed BYOB drinking in restaurants — except for those on the boardwalk.

BYOB supporters have gathered enough petition signatures to place the matter on the May 8 election ballot.

Ocean City was founded as a Methodist retreat in the 1800s.

Backers say BYOB is needed to attract more business to eateries, while opponents fear the family-friendly atmosphere of Ocean City would disappear.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)