Even though Ocean City, New Jersey is running ads right now promoting tourism, the resort town says it can’t reopen by Memorial Day.
Michelle Gillian, who heads up the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, says that means all the usual holiday weekend plans are off, including the traditional unlocking of the beach and businesspeople plunging into the Atlantic.
“We hope that not long after Memorial Day we will be officially opening the beach and starting that cycle when people can come and visit Ocean City, and we know there will be parameters with that and we are preparing for that,” Gillian said.
It comes as Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday outlined his approach to lifting stay-at-home orders and restrictions on businesses in the state, but did not set a date for reopening.
Gillian said she understands some merchants will not be pleased with Ocean City’s decision, but hopes they still prepare for the eventual return of tourists.
“I think June sounds reasonable, a little ambitious for some but pretty reasonable,” she said.
The summer season normally runs about 100 days at the Jersey Shore and any cutbacks to tourism will impact those whose businesses are open only during warmer weather, but Gillian is looking forward to an opening, albeit with a different view than the past.
“What we are telling our businesses to take the time to be prepared, start to get hand sanitizer masks, be prepared for the new norm for this summer,” she said. “Different business models is what we are going to have to look at.”
She said that might include less outdoor dining and limits on how many people can be on the boardwalk at the same time.
Murphy has told part-time residents to stay away from their vacation homes. The local government and chamber are asking people to continue to heed that.
“As soon as the governor lifts that, we will encourage the second homeowners to come down and make sure everything is good and participate in Ocean City’s environment,” she said.
Cape May County has 281 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 18 deaths, while neighboring Atlantic County has 749 cases and 30 deaths.
Other shore towns, including Point Pleasant Beach, have announced limited plans to ease some restrictions.