Slow start to summer at local beaches amid coronavirus

At least some parts of the beach are open this weekend, but the unofficial start of summer is beginning with a whimper, not excitement — and a rainy Friday has nothing to do with it.

While the hotels and short term rentals in Ocean City, Maryland, are up and running again, all the restaurants are still carry out and there’s no sidling up to the bar anywhere during the pandemic. Parks and the boardwalk are open, but putt-putt courses are not.

Up the road in Delaware, visitors from out of state aren’t supposed to be there just yet. It means what would normally be a raucous weekend from Rehoboth Beach down to the Ocean City inlet just won’t be the same.

At The Pond in Rehoboth Beach, Memorial Day weekend is usually “crazy, a line down the block,” said Liz Renshaw, a bartender and waitress there. “Just fun, so much fun. The energy is incredible.”

It’s also good for her wallet. After a long winter, a three-day holiday weekend can bring over $1,500 in cash.

“We bust our butts all weekend,” Renshaw said.

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But that won’t be the case this weekend. Not for her, nor for musicians who are staples of the beach bars there. Pete Wiedmann, who plays in the band Love Seed Mama Jump, is usually either playing gigs, or traveling to and from gigs between Dewey Beach and the Jersey Shore from Thursday through Monday.

“That is how we make money,” said Wiedmann. “Not being able to work Memorial Day weekend is disheartening,” before adding, “understandable considering the circumstances.”

Sussex County, Delaware, has been among the harder hit jurisdictions in the region for COVID-19. And the restrictions in place aren’t conducive to the normal partying that might take place in Dewey Beach.

“When you’re playing at bars, you’re dealing with people who are drinking, social boundaries kind of go out the window,” Wiedmann said. “People would be dancing, or at a bar, and the chances of spreading the infection would be pretty great.”

Both Wiedmann and Renshaw said one of the best parts of this weekend is also reconnecting with people they hadn’t seen since last summer. And they made clear they want to do it again, soon.

They just hope beachgoers will do their part to help make it happen.

“I just want everybody to be safe,” Renshaw said. “I want people to not be here and be selfish.”

For Wiedmann, that also means being considerate of those who work at the beach.

“I would like them to be respectful of the people in the restaurants, people who are doing their best to kind of keep things going,” he said. “It’s been rough for everybody. This is a resort town and the fact that we’re going to have this impeding everybody’s summer, it weighs hard on everyone.”

While he said he’s trying not to get too optimistic, or too pessimistic, about what happens, Renshaw is looking straight ahead, hoping to be behind the bar again by July.

“I don’t want to go backwards,” she said. “I want to be able to hit Phase 2 and Phase 3.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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