Ocean City businesses say the real test is when hotels reopen
OCEAN CITY, Md. – For the first time since they were shut down due the pandemic, some Ocean City businesses reopened their doors this past weekend and things went well. But they say the real test will come when restrictions are lifted for hotels and rentals.
“It should be interesting as the weather heats up and it starts to feel more like summer,” says Anna Dolle Bushnell of Dolle’s Candyland. “So really no prediction. We’re going to be on a roller coaster for this summer.”
Some business owners say the first weekend was pretty smooth but they’re still unsure how the rest of the season will play out. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to prepare for the next week just because we don’t know if numbers go crazy and they decide to reduce things back down,” says Bushnell.
On the lodging side of things hotels, motels and rentals can start serving non-essential employees after May 22nd unless Governor Larry Hogan lifts the stay at home order before then.
“One of the things we’ve been trying to do over the last few weeks is really prep them and give them some guidance on how they can do the sanitizing protocols, the social distance signage,” says Susan Jones, the executive director for the Hotel Motel Restaurant Association (HMRA) in Ocean City.
Officials involved with the town’s lodging are specifically working with locally owned accommodations. “A lot of the franchise hotels that we have in town have been given guidance from their franchise leaders and that’s why we’ve been trying to help the independent properties to understand what the franchises are doing so they can also be on a level playing field and really build up those sanitary procedures,” says Jones.
But they’re also treating this as an opportunity to bring everyone up to speed because they say people will only visit if they feel comfortable with the procedures in place.
“They really have been taking the last couple of weeks to analyze everything that they do in their business and to look at their procedures. A lot of us haven’t looked at our procedures in a long time because we’ve just been opening up every season,” says Jones.
Some business owners say they’ll stick to daytime hours for now. As for amusement and attractions owners, they’re also working on implementing new procedures so people can enjoy games and rides safely. Meanwhile when it comes J-1 Visa workers, federal officials have until Friday May 15th.
Ocean City officials say they are pleased with how things went this past weekend in the resort town. “This weekend’s soft opening of the Beach and Boardwalk provided a very small step toward Ocean City’s recovery. It was encouraging to see families walking in groups of 2 to 4 people and exhibiting responsible physical distancing. Of those on the Boardwalk, many were wearing face coverings. Overall, individuals took appropriate steps to protect themselves, their families and those around them while enjoying the fresh air and the opportunity to be outside with their families,” says Jessica Waters, the town’s acting tourism director and communications manager.