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Small signs executive order allowing Atlantic City short-term rentals to resume next week

ATLANTIC CITY — Mayor Marty Small Sr. issued an executive order Friday morning permitting online short-term rentals and all city hotels to resume operation beginning May 29.

The mayor’s action Friday removes the restrictions from an executive order his office issued April 6 to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. The announcement has no impact on the city’s nine casino hotels, which remain indefinitely closed by order of Gov. Phil Murphy.

Small said he was “happy” to be taking the first steps toward restarting the city’s economy but added it would be a “long process.”

He also echoed Murphy’s recent sentiments on reopening casinos, saying “we’re not there right now.”

“But I’m willing to take a shot in the interest of getting this economy restarted,” Small said Friday morning about reopening short-term rentals and hotels during a live video conference on the city’s Facebook page.

All short-term rental operators and hotels must be registered with the city’s Department of Licensing and Inspection before resuming business. Violators are subject to immediate closing, fines and may be prevented from conducting future business in the city, said Dale Finch, director of the licensing department.

“So if you are a short-term rental in the city and you know you have not registered with Licensing and Inspections, do so this week,” Finch said. “I urge you to do that.”

Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator Scott Evans said hotels and motels will be required to adhere to health and safety protocols established by public health professionals and industry-specific guidelines.

“We reserve the right to pull back, to restrict (operations), if we see things going in the wrong direction,” Evans said.

In addition to the short-term rental and hotel order, Small announced changes to the city’s two COVID-19 testing sites.

The major change is that coronavirus testing is now available to “anyone,” Small said. Residents and first responders who work in the city will no longer need to be symptomatic or possess a doctor’s prescription to be tested.

The other modification is that the walk-up site in the Showboat Hotel Atlantic City parking lot between Delaware and Maryland avenues will be open three days a week — Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The drive-thru testing site at Bader Field will now only be open Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Residents are still required to make an appointment to be tested.

What South Jersey beaches will have lifeguards this Memorial Day weekend?

Atlantic City mayor unlocks ocean during Friday beach ceremony

ATLANTIC CITY — Mayor Marty Small Sr. drove a giant key into the wet sand at the water’s edge Friday afternoon, opening the ocean for summer.

“Normally, this is the time where we’re really gearing up for our season, but keeping the expectations manageable,” Small said, speaking into a bullhorn through a mask. “This is not the season as we know it. This is the new norm for the foreseeable future.”

The mayor was joined by the city’s Beach Patrol Chief Steve Downey, Emergency Management Coordinator and fire Chief Scott Evans and Resorts Casino Hotel President and CEO Mark Giannantonio on the Boardwalk in front of Resorts Casino Hotel to continue the tradition of opening the ocean and beaches to kick off the season.

“Our economy will bounce back,” Small said. “And that’s why, under my leadership, we kept the beach and Boardwalk open for our residents to get some mental and physical exercise. While everyone else closed for whatever reason, we stayed open because I had the faith and belief in our hardworking staff.”

After unlocking the ocean, Small got into a city lifeboat with a wreath covered in red, white and blue flowers with a ribbon that said, “We will never forget” and placed it into the surf.

In years past, the casino would also host an event to kick off the summer with activities, entertainment and the pouring of 5,000 colorful souvenir beach balls onto the Boardwalk.

This year, with casinos closed and social distancing rules in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, officials wore masks and the small crowd left room between others.

“You can look at it like a glimmer of hope for all of us,” Giannantonio said. “It’s been a very difficult nine weeks, and there are a lot of things that we have to still overcome.”

He said the casino is going to be ready to keep employees and customers safe when it is permitted to reopen because they’re working with industry officials “to make our casinos the safest in the nation.”

Downey encouraged beachgoers to practice social distancing.

Flags honor fallen veterans at Atlantic City 9/11 Memorial

The Saracini-O’Neill Atlantic City 9/11 Memorial committee and friends are planting more than 1,000 American flags over Memorial Day weekend to honor fallen veterans. The “Field of Flags” will be presented on the lawn, adjacent to the memorial at Jackson Avenue and the Boardwalk, according to a news release. Participants started planting the flags Thursday and will continue to do so through Tuesday.

“Atlantic City has always been open, and we’re excited for this summer,” Evans said, adding officials have worked to ensure “that our Boardwalk and beach is prepared to handle the crowds and to do it in a safe and efficient manner.”

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Juvenile arrested in Atlantic City sexual assault

ATLANTIC CITY — Police arrested a 16-year-old city boy Wednesday on charges he sexually assaulted another boy this month.

Police said a 14-year-old boy reported May 11 he was sexually assaulted in an abandoned building in the 1800 block of Marmora Avenue by a suspect with a gun.

At 12:28 p.m. Wednesday, Sgt. Henry White III and Detectives Kevin Francis and Deborah Gilmore arrested the suspect in the 800 block of Indiana Avenue. He was in possession of a loaded handgun, police said.

The suspect was charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and two counts of unlawful possession of a weapon. He was taken to the Harborfields Juvenile Detention Facility.

— Zac Spencer