With the first major holiday of the summer of COVID-19 all but in the rear-view mirror, Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns said there’s no denying the pandemic has affected everyone and continues to disrupt lives.
“This Memorial Day weekend looked and felt very different due to COVID-19,” said Kuhns in an email May 25. However, he said, things went about as well as could be expected. “The city felt very positive in regards to the businesses, visitors and residents for their understanding and complying with regulations in place for everyone's safety."
Quiet Storm owner Kelly Loeser said Sunday was much busier than Saturday, but that was because of the weather. Saturday started out rainy, but a significant portion of the day was sunny with a warm wind blowing out of the west. Sunday was cloudy and the wind was howling off the ocean.
“There’s just more people shopping on a day like today,” said Loeser, standing at the front door of the two-story Rehoboth Avenue surf shop, keeping count of customers as they filed in and out.
Traditionally, Loeser said, Memorial Day weekend is the busiest weekend of the year for the store. She said this year, her expectations were limited because of the uncharted territory. She also noted decisions about what is and what is not allowed are coming at the last minute. There’s just too little notice for what a business is permitted to do, Loeser said.
Atlantic Cycles owner Frank Cole said the safety measures put into place were a joke, calling it a policy designed to appease the people who are most worried. Standing in his Wilmington Avenue shop, he described his Memorial Day business as lackluster. The policies are half-measures that don’t help the businesses and aren’t really safe for anyone, he said. “It’s the worst of both worlds,” said Cole.
Cole is concerned Carney will run unopposed in the fall, which means he’ll be able to dig in his heels about how to respond to COVID-19.
“We could be in for a very long summer and fall,” Cole said.
Other businesses also reported the weekend was slow.
Zed Smyth, manager for Café Azafran on Baltimore Avenue, said the weekend was slow, noting there’s little reason for people to walk down Baltimore Avenue.
Smyth said he had heard Rehoboth Avenue businesses were busy, but Baltimore and Wilmington avenue businesses were not. Shaking his head, he said the governor’s hands are kind of tied in this situation.
“He’s doing the best he can,” said Smyth. “I wouldn’t want to be in the situation myself. We’ll have to see what happens June 1 when we can start allowing people inside.”
Kuhns said, for the most part, there were no major problems, and most people appeared to be following social distancing rules. He credited the state with helping the city with signage and stickers for windows.
“I was impressed by the cooperation of beachgoers, but that would not have been possible without the educational resources provided by the state,” said Kuhns.