As the First State prepares to enter Phase 2 of reopening on Monday (June 15) due to the coronavirus shutdown, business is rapidly picking up for Rehoboth Beach businesses.
“We’re persevering,” says Carol Everhart, President and CEO of the Rehoboth Beach – Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce.
According to the Chamber’s statistics for the May 29 weekend this year, only 471 hotel rooms were filled, primarily by essential workers. That is compared to 2,825 rooms filled the same time in 2019. Reservations for the first weekend of June this season was at 2,417 filled rooms, but that is still down from last year’s total of over 3,000 rooms filled. While it is possible there are more daytime visitors to the beach resort right now, Everhart says traffic counts will not be available for at least two months.
“What makes us different from other beach towns is we are year round,” Everhart says. “We depend on the May thru end of October business here. [The shut-down] hurt us.”
While all businesses are suffering from the shutdown and slow start-up, restaurants are among the hardest hit since the emergency declaration in March. Everhart says Governor John Carney’s mandate restricting patrons to 30% of fire code’s occupancy is putting a financial strain on restaurants. With Phase 2 on Monday, occupancy increases to 60%.
Retail was also hit hard by the shutdown. While curbside pickup became the only way for retail to stay afloat, Everhart says it did not work for many retail businesses. Some retailers and family attraction spots remain closed and not reopening until later this summer. Funland, a popular boardwalk destination for families during the busy season, remains closed until July.
While frustrations remain with the lack of clarity beyond Phase 2, Everhart says she has been in constant contact with the Governor’s office and the Small Business Association on a daily basis. She adds that businesses are hopeful that a clear step for Phase 3 and beyond comes soon for Rehoboth Beach businesses.
“Many businesses, like charter boats and tour boats, have been left behind in these mandates and decisions.”
A big concern is a potential second wave of the virus. During a news conference on Friday, Governor Carney says that while Delaware’s number of cases remain low, states that have reopened have seen a “rebound”.
“The Governor of North Carolina, in his state is experiencing an uptick of cases that is really troublesome and bothersome. They didn’t have near the number of cases per population in our state, but now they are seeing a rebound. It should be a concern for all of us. The message is that we can’t let down.”
Still, there is optimism among businesses along the boardwalk and Rehoboth Avenue to salvage the rest of the busy summer season. Rehoboth Beach Police and Cadets patrol the boardwalk reminding visitors to wear a mask at all times while maintaining social distancing. The line for Thrasher’s French Fries is still there, but slightly longer due to everyone maintaining that six-foot guideline.