Eli Rallo | Seven Mile Satellite
Jersey Shore residents thrive during their summers at the beach, and New Jersey as a whole thrives from Jersey Shore tourism — a significant aide to the state’s economy. New Jersey’s beaches are a major attraction to the tourists who spent nearly $45 billion in 2018.
Tourism is our state’s seventh-largest industry — which supports over 531,000 jobs — providing residents with a reason to find a silver lining in the influx of tourists on the shore beaches and restaurants throughout the summer season. Though much of New Jersey attracts tourists throughout the year, the Jersey Shore accounts for about half of all tourism spending yearly.
Since the Jersey Shore is so essential to the state’s integrity, it’s no surprise that the COVID-19 crisis has harbored anxiety about the future of the shore in regard to summer 2020. The feeling has emanated among beach goers, tourists, employees and residents.
Central and South Jersey make up an area that voted overwhelmingly in favor of Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. That said, these areas have since created divisive tension with the state’s government in regard to the reopening plans for beaches, boardwalks and shore town restaurants.
Asbury Park, New Jersey’s council, specifically, voted to override the governor’s request and open restaurants for limited capacity indoors. This move is preemptive to Murphy’s recent July 2 indoor dining announcement, which will operate at 25% capacity.
Overriding the governor’s wishes for New
Jersey’s reopening suggests that Asbury Park residents aren’t happy about the pace at which the Jersey Shore is reopening amid the virus. It also proves that residents and town governments long for the semblance of routine normalcy that our previous Jersey Shore summers have seen.
A Jersey Shore resident myself — with a family who lives here largely in part due to the proximity to the beach, river and ocean — I feel the reverberations of disappointment in our lack of a “normal Jersey Shore summer” and acknowledge the major loss that the state will face monetarily in the lapse of tourism.
As the child of a restaurateur, with a Jersey Shore family-run small businesses, which benefits greatly from the summer tourist buzz and Jersey summer spirit, I also empathize with the challenges my father has faced mentally, emotionally and monetarily when circumventing challenges to keep his doors open.
Being an employee in a restaurant throughout the duration of the pandemic, I see a need to allow businesses to open and residents to make their own informed decisions when dining out or heading to the beach. Many restaurants won’t be able to reopen when eventually advised to by the governor due to a major loss of funds throughout the pandemic.
That said, it’s also necessary to not only reflect on the monetary loss of businesses and the stress on business owners as collateral to the pandemic, but the loss of New Jersey resident’s lives. The number of lives lost is startling and could, of course, be exacerbated by the reopening of the shore at a quick, efficient pace. With 13,018 deaths recorded due to COVID-19 in New Jersey, one could imagine that enticing New York residents to flood the Jersey Shore in addition to northern Jersey residents — where the virus hit the hardest in the state — could cause numbers to spike again.
Both the anxiety in residents about a new influx of the virus and the frustration and economic hardship of Jersey Shore business owners, employees and residents in regard to the summer season are valid. Business Owners who have poured their lives into their restaurants and beach businesses, along with residents who are worried for the health of themselves and their families have a right to their opinion regarding the reopening of the Jersey Shore.
While there’s absolutely no reality in which we see a “normal” Jersey Shore summer, it’s not the all-or-nothing situation some see it as. Nothing in this America will ever return to the pre-pandemic “normalcy” we knew and enjoyed. Unfortunately, we have a new reality, and for however long, that means masks, social distancing and other preventative measures.
With restaurants providing outdoor dining, and soon, minimal indoor dining opportunities, residents wishing to head out to dine have the choice to. Likewise, those who choose to go to the beach can do so wearing a mask upon entrance and exiting, and can sit socially distanced from other beach goers.
Perhaps the discussion and argument surrounding the reopening of Jersey Shore towns, beaches and businesses needs to recognize that the future of the Jersey Shore will be irrevocably different, regardless of how we wish it would be the same.
It’s imperative that we are cautious and continue to abide by the government’s rules in place to slow the spread of the virus. That said, residents should have the choice to dine out or gather on beaches if they’d like to. This is something they have the right to decide, and residents who choose to dine out, go to beaches and gather should do so in an astute, safe way.