SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NJ – It’s now March 11th. In less than two months, the unofficial start to the 2021 tourism season will begin and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he is taking reopening in small steps.
Unlike the sweeping reopening of the economy in states like Texas, the governor says New Jersey will play it safe and reopen in small and measurable increments.
That could pose a problem for the Jersey Shore as businesses from Cape May to Sandy Hook were hit hard in 2020 and could be in for another shock in 2021 if the governor continues controlling the flow of customers into local businesses.
This week, Murphy raised the cap on indoor dining to 50% but did not change the moratorium on bar service, vital to the success of many Jersey Shore restaurants and bars.
“So we’re still not at seating at bars. And that’s one where I’ve gotten a lot of incomings, and I appreciate the incoming,” Murphy said. “And I’ve sat at a few bars myself, so it’s a special sort of ambiance, it’s a special sort of thing, whether you’re having a drink or you’re having dinner and a drink, whatever it might be but we’ve got to take this in steps.”
Tourism at the Jersey Shore spiked in 2019 when the state brought in an estimated $46 billion in tourism revenue from a combined 116 million visitors.
In 2021, the industry was down nearly 50% throughout the entire season with the most drastic downturn in April and May when an aggressive lockdown was still in place by Governor Murphy.
Murphy’s Fourth of July false start of the reopening of the restaurant industry dealt many shore businesses an unnecessary financial blow.
While many restaurants have been able to reinvent themselves as outdoor venues, the winter eventually came and shutdown outdoor dining options for many of the shore’s businesses.