Hermine, Mild and Dry, Nonetheless Soaks LBI Holiday CommerceWeekend Not a Washout But Storm Threat Stung
The late summer and autumn weather hasn’t been cooperating with Long Beach Island business owners of late.
Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, of course, put a big hurt on businesses as well as homes and government buildings. But while not as devastating as Sandy, several near misses have damaged bottom lines, too.
In 2011 Hurricane Irene threatened the Island in the last week of August, forcing an evacuation. LBI sustained no physical damage from Irene; indeed the most serious damage caused by the storm was in Vermont where, although it had gone subtropical, its rains flooded river valley towns. But a few days of business was definitely lost – as Irene approached, LBI resembled a ghost town.
Hurricane Joaquin was the culprit in 2015. As it worked north off the East Coast, Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency. Joaquin, in the end, headed far east and didn’t bother the Garden State. But with Christie and the Weather Channel saying the sky was falling – and heavy rains due to a stalled weather front unrelated to Joaquin – Chowderfest in Beach Haven was cancelled for the first time in its 27-year history. The weekend, which has become the unofficial conclusion of the tourist season in Southern Ocean County, was a washout.
Hurricane Hermine didn’t hurt Island businesses as much as Irene and Joaquin, but it certainly put a damper on things on LBI. Hermine, which had turned subtropical before reaching the Atlantic east of New Jersey, turned into a nor’easter that was supposed to pound the Garden State coastline for days. Well, it moved farther east than predicted. Although it did create rough surf, keeping swimmers out of the ocean and causing minimal beach erosion, it didn’t flood LBI as some had predicted. Indeed, it didn’t even produce rain. Still, it rained on the parade of business owners hoping for a strong finish to the summer of 2016.
Most hotels were stung because of reservations canceled or guests departing halfway through what was supposed to be, in many cases, a three-night minimum stay.
“By Sunday we only had 29 out of 89 rooms rented when originally we were almost sold out,” said Leeann Kneuer of the Spray Beach Hotel in North Beach Haven. “We held strictly to our cancellation policy, but people still left – and it wasn’t that bad out there.”
“We probably lost 60 to 70 percent of our weekend business,” said Tom Hughes, owner of the Sea Shell Resort & Beach Club in Beach Haven. “We not only lost room bookings but dinner and lunch business.”
“We were filled up for the weekend (in terms of reservations) weeks in advance, but by Saturday we were only half full,” said Mary Kate Kelly of Beach Haven’s Coral Seas Motel.
Beach Haven’s Engleside Inn reported it was half full by Sunday, although its outside SandBar was busy and its indoor restaurant “was slammed” on Sunday evening, rather surprising in that most of the diners were walk-ins instead of reservation holders.
A couple motels escaped unscathed.
“We have a unique situation here,” said Karen Kane of Drifting Sands in Ship Bottom. “Our entire property was booked up by a group, a group associated with the (Harvey Cedars) Bible Conference. So we weren’t hurt at all.”
“We had only two cancellations,” said Joan Bowers of Buccaneer Motel in Spray Beach.
The Buccaneer is located on the bayside. Perhaps their guests, as is often the case with visitors to LBI, incorrectly assumed flooding would be a problem on the oceanside and not the bay.
Restaurants were also affected by Hermine.
“We actually took a bit of a hit,” said Sarah Crowley, manager of Plantation in Harvey Cedars. “It was OK on Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday and Monday we lost about 50 percent of our business. But last year we were really hurt on the Saturday of Chowderfest – and then we had a big weekend the next weekend.
“So we’re hoping to make it up over the course of this month.”
The manager of Buckalew’s Restaurant & Tavern in Beach Haven said he hadn’t looked over the figures yet but remarked, “It was down – I’m not sure how much.”
That manager didn’t have time to give his name – he said he was busy with a “huge benefit.” Maybe there’s something to that “make it up” idea.
Still, business owners on LBI, who probably have nothing at all against New Orleans, probably hope any future storms during Hurricane Season 2016 track into the Gulf of Mexico instead of the Atlantic.
— Rick Mellerup