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    Business owners near closed Island Beach State Park say sales are down significantly

     In Seaside Park, Shore and More General Store owner Dominick Solazzo says the ongoing Island Beach State Park closure has been tough on his business. (Image courtesy of Dominick Solazzo)

    In Seaside Park, Shore and More General Store owner Dominick Solazzo says the ongoing Island Beach State Park closure has been tough on his business. (Image courtesy of Dominick Solazzo)

    On day three of the New Jersey government shutdown, business owners near Island Beach State Park say they’re struggling to make sales during the critical extended holiday weekend.

    Gale Coleman, owner of 3C’s Luncheonette on Route 35 in Ocean County’s Seaside Park, says Saturday and Sunday were rough on her business. She estimates business down by 50 percent during the first two days of the shutdown. 

    “it’s certainly not like it should be,” she said, pointing to the roadway in front of her business that is typically crammed with cars heading toward the state park, celebrated for its miles of white sandy beaches and trails leading to the Barnegat Bay. 

    When asked if the park’s closure due to the ongoing state budget impasse is directly responsible for lagging sales, she said yes.

    “It has everything to do with Island Beach State Park being closed. We depend on Island Beach State Park,” she said, standing in the brilliant sunshine outside her business. “You can never make up your financial loses. There’s no way to do it.”

    Only about a quarter of the tables were occupied by diners mid-morning. Coleman says that on a typical extended holiday weekend, there would have been a wait to sit. 

    A few blocks north, Shore and More General Store owner, Dominick Solazzo, a father of two young children, is dealing with a similar situation. Like Coleman, he relies on traffic to the park. 

    “The roads are empty. There’s no flow to the park,” he said. “We’re one of the only places to get your essential beach needs. The park is a generator for a huge amount of people that come through here. That flow makes our business.”

    A handful of customers were in the store at 8:30 a.m. Monday, browsing Solazzo’s eclectic displays of clothing, trinkets, and beach gear. 

    He shared a message for Trenton. 

    “Hopefully the governor and the state legislature decide the move forward. Just open the darn park please!”

    Gov. Chris Christie ordered nonessential services, including state parks and the motor vehicle commission, to close beginning Saturday. Casinos, which are regulated by the state, remain open. More than 30,000 state workers are furloughed.

    Christie and state legislators will be returning to the state capital Monday to continue working on reaching an agreement on the state budget. 

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