Seaside Heights officials as well as the borough’s business community began a campaign Tuesday to rally support for the reopening of rides, arcade games and boardwalk attractions at the Jersey Shore.
The borough, along with Casino Pier and other business owners, are promoting the social media hashtag #releasethefamilyfun as part of its effort. A number of flyers with the slogan began hanging on the oft-closed doors of boardwalk businesses Tuesday afternoon. Christopher Vaz, the borough administrator, conducted a Facebook Live tour of the boardwalk to raise awareness about the number of businesses that are still closed despite Gov. Phil Murphy’s lifting of a statewide “stay at home” order Tuesday and upping the number of people allowed at gatherings.
“Notwithstanding some of the good news that’s coming out, we’re still discouraged by the news that the amusements are close,” said Vaz. “Casino Pier and Breakwater Beach is literally the backbone of our economy in Seaside Heights. They need to be able open – they’re professionals in their business and plugged in with what’s going on nationally and internationally.”
While some food stands were open, games such as Frog Bog and prize wheels remained closed. Arcades had moved a few games into their doorways in order to allow a few people to play, but they were effectively blocking entrance to the arcade itself, where all of the other doors were locked.
“There is plenty of ocean breeze air flowing through the arcades,” said Vaz. “Arcades can clean regularly, sanitize machines, and have employees wear face masks.”
The administrator also worried that a lack of guidance from Trenton could lead to a scenario in which Gov. Phil Murphy allows rides and games to open on short notice, leaving operators without enough time to pull together a staff and visitors flocking to a boardwalk where amusements are not open despite the fact that announcements from the state said otherwise.
“We have a boardwalk full of people wearing masks, the employees are wearing masks, but we really need to know when more can open,” Vaz said. “You can’t find out on a Friday that you can open up on Saturday.”
There is also a major financial aspect, both for business owners who must make an entire year’s wage in one season, the borough which depends on tax assessments of businesses and the state which generates billions of dollars in sales tax revenue from tourism.
“There are people who need money for their families and they’re not employed,” said Vaz. “Summer really makes Ocean County what it is. In these very precious nine or ten weeks of the summer, every day they’re not open is damaging to people.”
What officials are seeking most is guidance and more information from the state on how to prepare for a full reopening of amusement businesses.
“We don’t have answers for people, unfortunately,” Vaz said. “The big question is that we don’t know the logic. Or if there is any logic. We don’t get it.”