New Jersey shore businesses hoping crowds still visit this fall

WILDWOOD, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Now that Labor Day is over, businesses are the Jersey shore are trying to make the best of an unusual fall season.

On a breezy day in Wildwood, visitors still hit the beach and strolled the boardwalk - some for the first time this year.

"We just decided to come to the shore. We hadn't been all year. We usually are down here before now," said Shelley Robinson of Upper Darby, Pa. who visited Wildwood with family for her birthday weekend.

While many people enjoyed the beach this summer, some people, like Robinson, held off.

"The COVID scare and it was starting to kick back up again so we just kind of laid low," she said.

This will be the last weekend for lifeguards on duty in Wildwood. But some businesses will still be open.

"If the weather's nice people will still come down for a day trip. So we'll remain open as long as the weather's nice," said John Papageorgiou, owner of Olympic Flame Restaurant and Pizzeria on the boardwalk.

Papageorgiou says there's another promising aspect to this year's fall shore season - and that's virtual school.

"Kids can do their work at home now, a lot of parents are just staying down," he said.

But because of the coronavirus gathering restrictions, many popular fall events like the Irish festival and the firefighters convention have been cancelled. One motel we checked in with that would normally be booked solid on those event weekends, only has a handful of reservations. City officials are hoping people will still make their way to the shore - even without the events.

"Do I think there will still be a lot of people in town? I do. And we are certainly wide open. We're asking people come on down just practice your social distancing," said Mayor Pete Byron.

We found one property owner who says he has a lot of renters lined up for September and October.

"I'm seeing more this year. Because I've had fewer in the beginning of the year. I think people were still skeptical about coming down," said Wayne Kopicki who owns several rentals in Wildwood Crest.

Businesses like Bobby's Place on the boardwalk say it's up to the crowds and the weather.

"We'll take it day by day. But we're probably here until Columbus Day and then lock it up," said owner Joe Sakkal.

Mayor Byron says the events and concerts that were canceled this year are still on for next year as of now.

Byron also hopes indoor dining will bump up to 50% or 75% capacity as the weather turns colder. Currently New Jersey restaurants can seat diners inside at 25% capacity.
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