By Lauren Wanko
Under sunny skies, folks today strolled the boardwalk in Seaside Heights and lounged on the sand. It’s the kind of weather shore merchants hope for all summer long, but this year Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. Business is down 40 percent at Jimbo’s Bar and Grill. It’s become a familiar story along the coast this season.
“It’s been the perfect storm of bad business, really. We’ve had weather issues during the weekends, which is the biggest time of the year. You know just lack of people, the amount of places to stay. It’s been rough overall,” said Jimbo’s Bar General Manager Roger Gibson.
This summer’s beach badge sales prove just how rough the season’s been. In Lavallette sales are down nearly $132,000 compared to last year. In Belmar beach badge revenue is down more than $227,000. Brick resident Ruth Leach isn’t surprised by the slump in sales. She insists swimmers stayed away from the ocean this summer, fearful of debris left behind by Sandy.
“My daughter who always gets a pass didn’t get one this year. And she’s a nurse and a lot of people have come in hurt, cut,” Leach said.
Farther south in Cape May County, business was off 20 percent on the boardwalks. But in the city of Cape May, beach badge sales were up nearly $27,000. Still, local tourism officials are disappointed. They expected an even greater boost. Back on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, local Barbara Mohn is disheartened by the lack of tourists.
“After all these years it’s been like a tradition and you just hate to see traditions disappear,” Mohn said.
Business is down about 40 percent at EJ’s Tavern. Bartender Kevin Hinninger blames the lack of family business since many of the rides weren’t up and running. And the weak economy.
“This town’s very expensive with the parking and the beaches. Free beaches would have been great this year,” Hinninger said.
Hinninger says after the storm there was a curiosity factor luring folks to shore.
“We actually had really a good pre-summer because of everybody coming down to see what happened, and I thought that was gonna carry through,” Hinninger said.
Nearby Ergo Clothing’s Marc Kleinman is operating a new boardwalk store this year. He’s selling Restore the Shore apparel with 100 percent of the proceeds going to a non-profit. Kleinman’s also disappointed with the number of tourists.
“Sales have been pretty moderate, not what we expected just because the population here isn’t as high as it’s been in past years,” Kleinman said.