Violent storms that thrashed the region came just days before the start of the July Fourth holiday, the busiest time of the season for the Jersey Shore.
And now with cleanup well under way, tourism industry officials say many of the scheduled events are still set to happen.
“Certainly we have a huge investment in the Fourth of July and we’re going to encourage people to come, and we’re promoting it heavily,” said Jeff Vasser, president of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority.
Officials wanted to emphasize the region is open for business.
“You need to get the word out to let people know,” said Brian Tyrell, assistant professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Richard Stockton College.
When he managed a hotel, he said the staff would sometimes take the additional step of directly contacting visitors to assure customers that the facility was open.
“My guess is that most of these places are soldout and will remain so as folks come down,” Tyrell said. “That’s my hope right now.”
In Atlantic City, officials said on Monday they expected the weekend storm to have a minimal effect on Fourth of July festivities. The Chelsea hotel, which lost power and closed over the weekend, reopened at 2 p.m. Monday and was accepting reservations.
The storms had minimal effect on the resort’s casinos, said Tony Rodio, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey.
Instead Rodio, CEO of Tropicana Casino and Resort, said they were flooded by requests from people on the mainland who had lost power and were looking for hotel space.
And Rodio said he expected the storms would have little effect on Atlantic City during the holiday week. “I would tell people that Atlantic City was spared from any of the damage, and I’m sure that all of the properties, like Tropicana, will be fully operational.”
The resort also plans to host one of the state’s biggest fireworks exhibits on the Fourth of July, and “the fireworks are a go,” Atlantic City Alliance spokesman Jeff Guaracino said.
This year’s event is set for 9:30 p.m. The 20-minute fireworks display takes place on a barge off of the Pier at Caesars, and should be visible on the beach for the length of Absecon Island.
Afterward, a free concert is scheduled for Kennedy Plaza featuring musician Kevin Rudolf. After that, the Alliance will debut a 3-D sound and light show on the façade of the adjacent Boardwalk Hall.
Guaracino said the alliance is concerned about the perceptions of the resort and has taken steps to promote events in Atlantic City.
“I think the key message is July 4th, the entire week, is going to be spectacular,” Guaracino said.
The storm has postponed or canceled a number of events on the hard-hit mainland. But they are still happening in many shore communities.
In Northfield, the annual Fourth of July parade will be rescheduled for Saturday, Mayor Vince Mazzeo said.
“This way we’ll get to clean up and hopefully the town will be in better shape,” Mazzeo said. Events start at 9:30 a.m. July 7 at Jackson Avenue. At 10 a.m., the parade proceeds along Shore Road, turning on Mill Road and going to Birchgrove Park.
In Vineland, which declared a state of emergency because of the storm, a Wednesday concert featuring "The Cumberlads" may be canceled, said Mimi Bernard, in the mayor’s office. She said the mayor, Robert Romano, would make the final decision Tuesday.
But in Margate, Mayor Michael S. Becker said they were still planning to hold their 9 p.m. fireworks. “The only question mark would be the weather,” Becker said. “I think it’s very important up and down the Jersey coast.”
Area hotels and vacation rentals reported few, if any, cancellations.
Michael Hoffman owns the Marr Agency, which manages hundreds of rental properties in Ocean City, which escaped the worst of the storm.
Some people called the agency to see if they had power on Monday, Hoffman said, but there were no cancellations.
Instead, it was area residents who called to rent a vacation house while their homes remained without power. He had few vacancies.
Kevin Palek, the innkeeper for Ventnor’s Surrey Beach House, also said the power outages increased bookings.
After the storm passed through, Palek said the guests at the small 14-room motel went outside, laughing and joking in the pleasant weather.
The storm knocked out power, so they used a generator, but electricity was restored within an hour.
“It might have hurt because it was Saturday,” Palek said. “But we did get some extras.”
The storm was devastating, but it brought out the best in some people.
Joe Lautato is the owner of Café 2825 in Atlantic City’s Chelsea section.
He and staff arrived Saturday morning, only to find their power was off. At about 2 p.m. he realized that the power wasn’t going to return soon enough to save his food.
All $10,000 worth would soon spoil.
And he did not have the business-interruption insurance that would cover this loss.
Lautato said he went across the street to Tony’s Baltimore Grill. There, one of the owners, Cheryl Huffnagle, said they could accommodate the meat and produce.
The food they rescued included 100 center-cut, 14-ounce veal chops worth $20 apiece Lautato said, as well as 50 pounds of frozen shrimp, two cases of lobster tails, a case of half-and-half, 40 pounds of ricotta and the restaurant’s lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, carrots and other produce.
Café 2825 staff spent two hours food Saturday afternoon taking their food to the larger restaurant’s freezer. Power returned Monday at 10 a.m., so staff brought it back.
Several hours later, Lautato praised Huffnagle. She saved him, even though they both serve Italian food.
“I just don’t know how to say thank you for someone like that. They have their own business, you know?” Lautato said. “Why would you want the neighbor with the same product to survive?”
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