A Facebook post by Ocean Blue Restaurant & Oyster Bar to promote its New Year’s Eve party has stirred up a fierce online debate.

A Facebook post by Ocean Blue Restaurant & Oyster Bar to promote its New Year’s Eve party has stirred up a fierce online debate.

Some of the controversy concerns the event’s $185 per person advanced sale ticket pricetag. But most centers on the promotion’s use of a blue prescription bottle featuring a controlled substance sticker as its main image. The bottle is labeled with party details and promotes the party as a “prescription to celebrate.”

The label warns that the party “may cause party mood and celebratory effects. Celebrating with others may increase the effectiveness of this medicine.”

Some Facebook commenters found the promotion insensitive, especially in light of the ongoing opioid abuse epidemic.

“EXTREMELY DISTASTEFUL,” wrote Colleen Baris on Facebook. “Apparently you have no idea of the substance abuse problem in this area, or you do and you just don’t care.”

Ocean Blue owner Francis Pezzolanella said his marketing department created the graphic.

“We posted a promotion for our party and detailed what is going to go on,” he said. “This is a huge party that we throw every year. It’s our biggest day of the year.”

He said that addiction is a concern that’s affected his own family and friends.

“It’s definitely not something to joke around about. Our ad is not a joke in any way,” he said.

The controversy wasn’t changing his mind about the promotion: “If you read what is says in the ad, I think it’s pretty clear," he said. "People can read into things. It’s something the world runs on. I think it’s pretty entertaining.”

But many in the Facebook community thought that the promotion was a lapse in judgment for a restaurant they believe is generally known for good taste.

“What does pills have to do with a restaurant?” asked Danielle Pendolf in the comments. “Are you offering drugs at this new years eve party? shame on you for even thinking this was a good idea. … with all the drugs and opioid addiction going on. … i guess i just don’t get it. … and not to mention its tacky as hell.”

Other commenters defended the promotion, though, taking it at face value as an ad for the party.

“I have to say, the commentary on here seems a bit petulant,” wrote Travis Maurine. “This is a simple, playful ad. Like said ad or hate said ad. But that’s all it is. This is a local, well-respected establishment. I don’t get why people feel the need to villainize others over such trivial matters. I’m fairly certain this wasn’t intended to promote drug use.”

Here are a few of the other comments:

“What a disgusting way to promote a party,” wrote Ronnie Artigiani. “Do you people have any idea that there is an opioid epidemic across the country? Not to mention Oneida County is one of the worst in my state. You need to rethink your promotions next time.”

“That is a prescription medicine bottle, which are prescribed by doctors,” wrote Chris Nadroir. “If YOU have a personal association with them which makes you think of illegal drug use, addiction and overdose that is YOUR problem.”

“If ANYONE thinks this is ok you (are) wrong,” wrote Rob Biancamano. “The country is in the middle of an OPIOID CRISIS! People are dropping dead on a daily basis because of pills and this add glorifies it!”

“How is a pill bottle mocking opioids?” wrote Zack Santino. “That’s crazy to even say… almost every prescription people get comes in a pill bottle. … blue bottles are for animals btw.”

Some said the controversy is a hallmark of good marketing.

“You may not like the optics of this ad nonetheless we’re discussing it,” wrote Dawn Carter-Laguerre. “In advertising as long as you are talking they have an advantage.”

Contact reporter Amy Neff Roth at 315-792-5166 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Roth).