OCEAN CITY, N.J. (CBS) — The Jersey Shore is open for business as eased restrictions and warm weather greeted beachgoers on Friday. Business owners hope this is just the beginning of a much-needed boost.
People clearly couldn’t wait to get down the shore. While many of the businesses are still closed, the boardwalk in Ocean City was packed. Mayors up and down the Jersey Shore say they haven’t been this hell-bent about reopening since the summer after Hurricane Sandy hit.
“I think it’s a good positive start to what appeared to be a gloomy season,” Wildwood Crest Mayor Don Cabrera said.
There were positives signs down the Jersey Shore on Friday. Beaches and boardwalks are set to reopen this weekend, many reopening for the first time since mid-March.
In Ocean City, the beaches don’t open until Saturday, but the boardwalk is open for people to walk and jog and get takeout orders from restaurants.
While they’re asking people to maintain social distancing, Eyewitness News noticed many people not following guidelines.
Further down the shore, in Wildwood Crest, Cabrera says, while they may be off to a slower start, optimism is growing.
“It may very well push the season toward the end of the summer as opposed to having that push in the beginning of the season,” Cabrera said.
As of 6 a.m. on Friday, beachgoers were allowed to sit and sunbathe. However, swimming is not permitted until next Saturday when lifeguards return to duty.
Hotels and short-term rentals remain unavailable until June 1. Many retail shops remain closed.
“You got the bike path there, you got bikers and it’s just a shame because you can’t rent,” said DB Bradley’s Bikes owner Dan Bradley.
To help the many small businesses in the state that were forced to close, the state legislature nearly unanimously passed $100 million in forgivable loans. Restaurants, bars, hotels and other small hospitality businesses could apply for the zero-interest loans.
“The problem is, there’s never going to be enough money, but we have to throw as much money as we possibly can at these small businesses,” New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney said. “They’re too important to our economy.”
Many of the towns are asking you to maintain social distancing. Gov. Phil Murphy has threatened to close the beaches again if there are violations.