CBS2’s Cory James checked out the scene in Seaside Heights on Friday afternoon.
“Right now, it should be completely packed and it’s not,” said Nicole Helmlinger of Toms River.
“Seeing the rides shut down, yeah, it’s kind of a bummer,” added local resident Tyree Turner.
Kenny Macchiaverna said he feels the same way. He usually gets thousands of customers at his Jersey Shore restaurant Playa Bowls during the holiday weekend, but this year he is anticipating a 75% drop in business due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m not going to lie. I don’t feel great about this weekend. As of now, we have three months, real three months, to make money and if you don’t get it, you’re beat,” Macchiaverna said.
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The pulse was the same over in Asbury Park.
“Usually Asbury Park is hustle and bustle,” said Jeanne Dunne of Sea Girt.
“It’s weird. It’s depressing, because it’s like my first summer being 21,” added Mackenzie Dunne of Tucson, Ariz.
But it was worse at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach. The major spot remained completely closed because there are not enough seasonal officers to patrol the area. That lack of security is impacting people like Mark Malland, who makes a good portion of his money running the games.
“It’s hard to put into just one word. I lived through Sandy, I’ve lived 9/11, I’ve lived through many, many, many nor’easters. I’ve never encountered anything like this,” Malland said.
Pat Callahan, the head of the New Jersey State Police, said he hopes to change that in the coming weeks.
“We’re working with the Police Training Commission on making sure we have enough special officers. That’s starting to shake loose right now, in addition to our own state police class,” Callahan said.
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For now, expect to see deputies and police working together in places like Seaside Heights. If you don’t see them, you’ll spot posted signs and stickers on the ground reminding you to stay six feet apart.
And while this new normal is hitting some people hard, others are doing their best to stay optimistic.
“It is what it is. Just to get out here and see the view is cool,” one person said.
“If it ain’t back yet, it’ll be back,” another said.
“Super excited. I think that, we’re locals, so I think we’re just excited to be out,” Sea Bright resident Monica Chenoweth said.
New Jersey has come a long way in the last couple of weeks. For one, beaches are open and the state is loosening restrictions on the number of people allowed at outdoor gatherings. Up to 25 people can now gather outside, which is good news for beach-goers.
“We do have social responsibility. But I think this gives us an opportunity to have something to look forward to,” Chenoweth said.
The weekend doesn’t just feel different at the shore.
In Paramus, instead of a packed house inside, Biagio’s Ristarante is offering a blast from the past — carhop service outside.
Customers gathered in small groups in the parking lot, relaxing in chairs and in pick-up trucks, ordering food and drinks over the phone.
After two months of staying in, it was a much-needed night out.
“I am so thrilled to get out. I am very excited to see some of my friends. The kids have been going crazy, so they are super excited to be out as well,” customer Mariell Mezzina told CBS2’s Nick Caloway.
Even though up to 25 people can now gather outside, the limit is still capped at 10 for indoor gatherings.
The governor said people should still keep their distance at gatherings and masks are strongly encouraged.