Freeholder Joseph Vicari Calls For More Local Control of Reopening Businesses During COVID-19


TOMS RIVER, NJ – Ocean County Freeholder Joseph Vicari said he agreed with a plan presented by former New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Joseph Rullo to reopen shore businesses.  Rullo called into Wednesday’s meeting of the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders and proposed his “Small Business Sanctuary City:” for Ocean County and the Jersey Shore.  Rullo told freeholders that the laws enacted by Governor Phil Murphy benefit international corporations and penalize small local businesses to the point where many will soon be going out of business.

The Freeholders agreed with Rullo, but stopped short of enacting a small-business sanctuary but said a plan could be put in place where businesses can operate under municipal and county surveillance and guidelines be free from the blanket authority of Governor Phil Murphy.

“There’s no reason our own health department and municipal code enforcers can’t police our own local businesses,” Vicari said.

“Phil Murphy is picking and choosing winners and losers,” Rullo said. “The losers are the small businesses that create the jobs and make the economy of the Jersey Shore.”

The board agreed with Rullo, saying it’s time to allow these businesses to open their doors again to the public as long as they are following guidelines and have implemented precautionary measures approved by the state and health experts to assure the safety of the public.

“As the summer season approaches, our small businesses need to be allowed to reopen,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who is the liaison to tourism and business development. “These businesses are owned by our neighbors. They are embedded in our communities and do everything they can to make our towns a better place to live.

“They have been following all the rules and now is the time to allow them to reopen to the public to save their businesses especially as the tourism season gets underway in Ocean County,” Vicari said.

Vicari has been bringing his message to Gov. Murphy and the Governor’s staff as he urges the reopening of these small businesses during a daily conference call with the state’s 20 other counties.

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“Tourism is a $4.8 billion business in Ocean County, and while some of these stores are seasonal others are open year-round,” he said. “I am sure that during the time they have been closed to patrons they have taken every step possible to be prepared for reopening under strict sanitary and social distancing guidelines.”

Vicari said that safety is the priority during this time.

“I am not suggesting anyone go against the state executive orders or participate in civil disobedience,” Vicari said. “We don’t want to see anyone’s safety compromised.”

However, Vicari said it’s now difficult to justify the continuing closure of small businesses when the aisles of box stores like Target are filled with consumers purchasing non-essential items.

“Is it fair to small businesses that one of the busiest departments in Target was the swimsuit aisles while small businesses that sell swimsuits are shuttered to the public,” Vicari asked. “We need to be fair and we can no longer justify keeping small businesses closed if they meet safety guidelines.”

Vicari urged residents and visitors to patronize the small businesses located throughout the County.

“Please go to their websites order food, clothing, jewelry, gift cards or whatever you might be looking for,” he said. “You can get the merchandise with curbside delivery or by take out or other means.

“Now more than ever our small businesses need every one of us,” he said. “We can’t forget all they do for us throughout the year whether donating to charities, providing gifts for auctions, supporting our schools and sporting events and being a big part of our volunteer emergency response teams. Now is the time to shop small and buy local.”

Freeholder Virginia Haines, 76, the architect behind Ocean County’s COVID-19 park shutdown agreed with Rullo and Vicari.

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