Jersey Shore businesses detail what’s happening differently this summer
Everything will be different and prices are going up.
As businesses along and near the Jersey Shore attempt to rebound from the COVID-19 public health crisis, or wait for the go-ahead from the governor to do so, a webinar featuring a panel of South Jersey business owners and staffers has offered a glimpse into how much things will change for what would otherwise be routine operations during the summer season.
"I see blue dots in my sleep because there are blue dots all over the pier where people have to stand," Anthony Catanoso, president of Steel Pier in Atlantic City, said during an online discussion presented by the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University.
Catanoso said the biggest challenge for the pier, which is getting ready to open whenever it's given the green light, will be the monitoring of social distancing when guests line up for rides, games or refreshments. Questions remain, he added, for ride capacity — an amusement that typically holds 24 people may only be able to handle four to six.
All employees at the pier will be equipped with personal protective equipment, according to Catanoso. The temperature of staff members will be taken upon arrival. Hand sanitizing stations are available for patrons and operators at all rides, food-and-beverage kiosks and games.
Frank Dougherty, who owns and operates three restaurants in Atlantic City, doesn't plan to expand any current outdoor dining space, and at the time of the webinar was still awaiting guidance on how tables and guests must be spaced, and how service must occur, once doors are open. Right now, he's mostly concerned with getting staff to join or rejoin his ranks — many people are worried about the virus risk to themselves and, in turn, their families, Dougherty said.
"There's a financial incentive right now, not to work," Dougherty said, referring to unemployment benefits that have resulted in some individuals earning more out of work than they would on the job.
Dougherty said while his restaurants may offer promotions to attract more customers when business relaunches, "there will definitely be some price increases" to make up for revenue lost to limited capacity.
"I don't think we'll ever be able to recoup the margins that we had before; costs have gone up too significantly," he said.
Catanoso, along with Mike Tidwell, who works for Seaview, A Dolce Hotel, in Galloway, agreed that consumers can likely count on increased costs, so the businesses can attempt to maintain margins.
"Your experience at a resort is going to be different now than you ever experienced before," Tidwell said during the webinar. "We changed how we look at everything. One example is, in the guest rooms, the coffeemaker, the iron, ironing board — everything is out of the rooms. Then if a guest needs anything, we'll deliver it."
The hotel is opening rooms to guests on weekends starting June 5. The hotel's golf course, which has been open, spreads out tee times by 16 minutes to limit interaction, Tidwell said.
"We certainly can't do the same capacity on that front, but it's working," he said.
The hotel believes a business rebound will be led by needs related to youth sports, wedding blocks for rooms, and pent up demand from the drive market.
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