Shore Businesses: COVID-19 May Change Things Indefinitely
Does a "new normal" mean we'll be living in fear of COVID-19 forever? While many business owners bank on a vaccine to serve as a segue back to "how things used to be," certain precautionary measures and enhanced cleanliness protocols may be here for good.
During a webinar hosted by Stockton University, staffers and owners of seaside businesses in Atlantic County detailed the lessons they've learned in the face of the pandemic, and the way their businesses may change indefinitely because of it.
"I'm sure hand sanitization is going to be here forever," said Anthony Catanoso, president and owner of Steel Pier in Atlantic City. "And we will probably wipe down our lap bars and grips more often."
Catanoso indicated during the video conference that sanitizing stations would be made available to patrons and operators of rides, games and refreshment kiosks once the pier located across from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is given the go-ahead to open to the public.
Heightened sanitation standards are likely to remain as well at Seaview, A Dolce Hotel, located in Galloway, according to Mike Tidwell, director of sales and marketing.
"I don't think that's a bad thing," Tidwell said.
Without a doubt, Tidwell said, the language will change in contracts between the venue and couples or organizations looking to book a date for a wedding or event. The site is "learning a lot about force majeure," a provision that frees both parties from obligation if an unforeseeable circumstance, like a pandemic, comes into play, he said.
As of now, wedding events are set to resume at Seaview in late July. Hotel rooms are open to guests on weekends starting June 5.
Frank Dougherty, owner and operator of three restaurants in Atlantic City, including the Knife & Fork Inn, believes "employee temperature taking" will stick around after the current COVID-19 threat has passed. And more than ever, employees will be urged to stay home when they're sick.
"Once there's a vaccine, I think almost everything will go away. I'm hoping anyway," Dougherty said on the webinar. "People want to see smiles, they want to shake hands, they like to hug."
Revenue from shore towns is considered a major factor in helping the state's economy rebound from the financial strain caused by the novel coronavirus. Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Rutgers economist Bruce Mizrach and other researchers analyzed Google trends data and found that searches for certain shore municipalities — Beach Haven, Cape May and Seaside Heights — as well as shore terms such as "hotel" and "boardwalk," were down significantly among New Jerseyans compared to May 2019.
Mizrach and his team used this data in a model to produce a revenue forecast for 2020 in these towns.
"In looking at Cape May, we predict the 2020 hotel tax revenue will be $1.105 million, a decline of 19.9% from the $1.380 million collected in 2019," Mizrach said. "For Seaside Heights, we predict a 2020 tax revenue of $4.328 million, a decline of 17.4% from the $5.242 million collected in 2019."
The model predicts an 11% decline in hotel and motel tax revenue for Beach Haven.
These predictions, though, are likely to present more positive numbers as restrictions continue to be lifted, Mizrach said.