It was a beach season some thought wouldn’t even happen. But after a late start and limited business capacity, shore towns are doing everything they can to recoup the money they’ve lost, like keeping the beaches open with lifeguards through September.
“There’s no question that we’re 50% down in revenues; 50% down on the beach, parking meters, business community’s down, could be anywhere from 25 to 50% and some, maybe even worse,” said Tony Vaz, mayor of Seaside Heights. “Many of our summer residents are working here in Seaside Heights where they’d normally be in their base home, wherever they come from. They’re here. Let’s open it up.”
In order to pay for more lifeguards despite operating at a 50% loss, Vaz says he has a solution.
“Okay, what we’re doing, as I said it’s different, we’re charging. Where after Labor Day we never charged before,” he said. “So the monies we derive will pay for the gate attendants and the lifeguards. So it’s really, if everything goes right, it’s a wash. We’re not looking to make a profit. Pay the lifeguards, but we’re also having people come to our community.”
And that, they hope, will bolster the struggling businesses. Like Lucky Leo’s on the boardwalk.
“We’ve seen a dramatic drop in attendance, so it’s really important that the boardwalk stays open for its beaches, so we can continue to deliver fun safely to all those who got a late start to their summer here into the September month,” says Arron Rustici, operations manager of Lucky Leo’s.
Rustici says that the sanitizing operation is a big deal at Lucky Leo’s.
“We have somebody on staff at all times washing the high touch areas, which is extremely important because everybody is touching things in the arcade. So a lot of our patrons know and trust in our family business that we’ve been doing it right ever since the beginning and that we’ll continue to do it right,” Rustici said.
So far, 13 shore towns have extended their season into September. Allenhurst, Manasquan and Ocean Grove are some that’ll be open for two weekends after Labor Day. Seaside Heights, Bradley Beach and Long Branch are among those staffing lifeguards through Sept. 30. And it’s not just good for businesses, but for those who rent their homes, like Jean Caughey.
“It’s very very exciting for us. And it’s good. It’s, even though it’s not prime rental income, it’s still income for us,” Caughey said. “And if people can’t be extending out into other states and taking their vacations, it’s wonderful that they’re staying in the Tri-State area and really getting this business and everything back and going.”
Caughey only lost four rentals in June but says, “Once things started to open up and ease up, then we started to get those rentals in the fall months.”
And with indoor dining at 25% capacity starting Sept. 4, seaside restaurants are trying to make the most of these last warm weather weeks.
“People really love the outdoor dining, so as a result of, because we’ve never had this before. And once again, the borough of Seaside Heights helped a lot of us by allowing us to use this outdoor space,” said Wayne Cimorelli, owner of Spicy’s, Coin Castle, Midway Bar and Midway Steaks. “So you know, we’ll work our Facebook page, and you know it’s all weather. You know, there’s an expression, when the sun shines, we’re all geniuses.”
So, if you’re a shore town business owner, you’re used to riding the waves of a tough season. But not all changes are bad, and things like outdoor dining might just be here to stay.