(July 13, 2018) Efforts to expand Ocean City’s working season beyond the boundaries of summer has worked better than its efforts to expand the July 4 holiday to a weeklong celebration, as business owners reported brisk but unremarkable activity during both weekends.
Luckily, the owners in it for the long haul have some time to put a plan into motion, since the next time July 4 falls on a Wednesday is in 2029.
“‘Decent’ is the term I heard used around town,” Susan Jones, director of the Hotel Motel Restaurant Association said. “The weekends on either side of the holiday were about the same. A handful of people might stay longer, but it doesn’t feel crazy busy like it would over a four-day weekend.”
There were plenty of people here on the holiday, as the Hugh T. Cropper inlet parking lot filled to capacity at 9:50 a.m. and remained there throughout the day, according to city Communications Manager Jessica Waters.
“We did not do that $50 flat fee because the driving force of doing that was to ease the flow of traffic by avoiding the ticket booth. Since the ticket booths are removed, we kept the regular pay-by-plate system in effect,” she said.
For the past few years, the resort would offer an all day parking pass for $50 in advance of the holiday.
Whether that system alleviated congestion hasn’t been quantified.
“I believe that not having the toll booths at the exit of the inlet lot definitely eases the flow of traffic when leaving. Having said that, the Fourth of July is perhaps the busiest day of the year, so getting people in and out of the inlet lot, and the downtown area as a whole on that specific evening, is a challenge no matter what,” Waters said. “In other words, most of the traffic issues that we see on the Fourth of July are not solely due to traffic from the inlet lot but instead an overall level of traffic from Baltimore Avenue, Philadelphia Avenue, St. Louis Avenue and the inlet lot.”
The pay-by-plate system also resulted in a loss of revenue from previous years.
Last year the lot brought in almost $83,000 using the old system, but this year the number is about $24,000 less, at approximately $58,500, according to Waters.
In the commercial sector, Rare and Rye restaurant, on 32nd Street, is celebrating its second July 4 in the resort, and things went well according to owner Sal Fasano.
“It went pretty well, though it’s tough to gauge because the holiday was in the middle of the week,” Fasano said. “We had to compare it to last year and, all in all, the numbers were strong and the weather really helped out.”
Downtown mainstay Marina Deck, on Dorchester Street, remained busy all week long, according to owner Dennis Kalchthaler, who purchased the property in 2001.
“It was very good. What made it better is I think people stayed an extra day,” Kalchthaler said. “We were busy for an extra day or two, so I think they came on Tuesday and stayed until Sunday.”
While he was pleased with the weekend overall, it wasn’t his favorite holiday situation.
“I think it’s best when the holiday falls on Thursday, but Sundays are pretty good too,” he said.
Albert Levy, owner of The Crab Bag, was more enthusiastic.
“I only have one word for it, ‘unbelievable.’ It was like the football game let out and everyone came at once!” he said. “Our staff kept going and going, and worked like the great team that they are!”