Delaware beach businesses gear up for summer season

REHOBOTH BEACH — On Monday, traffic at the beach areas was surprisingly low as businesses across Delaware opened under Phase 1 of reopening the economy as outlined by Gov. John Carney.

The first phase of reopening allows restaurants, gyms, hotels and retail establishments to open at 30% fire code occupancy, among many other safety restrictions enforced by the state. Some of these safety precautions include mask requirements, keeping a 6-foot distance and persistent disinfection of surfaces are among a variety of other restrictions depending on the business model.

There are also certain industries that have not been permitted to open under Phase 1, including bars, summer camps, close contact salons, convention centers, sporting venues, indoor children play areas, arcades and water parks among other businesses in which it is difficult to prevent spread of the virus. State officials suggested that vulnerable individuals, such as people over the age of 65 and those who are immunocompromised, should continue to shelter in place.

Many businesses did not open Monday, whether it be by state restrictions or as an extra safety precaution.

Landmark Rehoboth Beach tourism locations such as Funland, Zelky’s arcades on the boardwalk, and Jungle Jim’s among others, will not open until further notice. Many restaurants and retail locations on Rehoboth Avenue shuttered their doors, posting signs of when they plan to open.

Monday saw fewer people on the sidewalks than on Memorial Day weekend, despite the out-of-state ban being lifted last week

Movies at Midway on Del. 1 had a quiet opening on Monday, offering showings of classics such as “Jaws” and “Grease,” along with one new release, “The High Note.” General manager Brooke Lowe said the theater expects to show more new releases in July, such as Disney’s live-action film “Mulan.”

“We’re definitely excited to start working our way back to normal, or at least closer to normal,” Ms. Lowe said.

The theater has implemented many safety precautions, such as limiting seating and selling only pre-packaged popcorn among other changes. Ms. Lowe said they are following the many health precautions issued by the state and CDC.

“We have put all the restrictions in place that we were required to do because we want to stay open, and hopefully be able to ease the restrictions as each phase comes along,” Ms. Lowe said.

The mid-70s temperature and sunny weather drew larger crowds on the beach, but Rehoboth Avenue was not at its usual capacity for a warm June day. Some visitors walked leisurely down the street or sat on benches enjoying ice cream, but most people in town appeared to be supporting their favorite restaurants and stores, then leaving soon after. The inside of stores and restaurants were visibly empty, despite Monday being the first day many locations have opened in months.

Clothing store Quiet Storm that drew large crowds on the sidewalks last weekend, sat eerily quiet on Monday. Store owner Dale Loeser said he was happy to be able to open the store at all.

Retail locations set up racks of merchandise on the sidewalks to take advantage of the extra space from the barricades. Restaurants on the avenue, such as Blackwall Hitch, set up multiple tables outside to keep customers a safe distance from each other.

One of the restaurants to start offering inside seating was the Grotto Pizza on Rehoboth Avenue and Boardwalk. Both Grotto locations appeared relatively more busy than other nearby restaurants.

Assistant manager of Grotto’s Pizza on the Boardwalk Allison Brown said she was excited to finally see customers seated inside.

“The sooner we can get things back to normal, the better. We’re just taking it day by day,” Ms. Brown said, adding she wishes the restaurant could open to full capacity, but these restrictions are necessary given the health concerns.

An unexpected end to the first day of Phase 1 came when the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce sent out an email Monday afternoon to business owners, warning them of potential protests planned Monday night following the death of George Floyd on May 25.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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