A tale of two beach states

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(Accompanying image shows the Ocean City boardwalk during  the pre-face mask summer of 2019. Dreamstime photo)

Hello everyone,

Shortly after this newsletter went out at noon on Tuesday, a release arrived from the governor’s office announcing that restrictions on short-term rentals would end on June 1.

The short-term rental announcement came as no surprise as Gov. John Carney broadly hinted that restrictions would be lifted at a press briefing near  Lewes a day earlier.

One modestly surprising development was a decision to allow outdoor events with 250 people if social distancing and other restrictions were in place. 

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Carney’s decisions were made easier, thanks to light crowds during an iffy weekend on Delaware’s beaches. At his Tuesday press briefing, Carney compared the calm conditions to the photos at Ocean City, MD and other areas.

On Tuesday, Ocean City, MD  Mayor Rick Meehan was doing damage control as the town along with Lake of the Ozarks, MO became visual  examples of how not to reopen.

 Meehan claimed photos of crowds on the boardwalk were misleading. It’s true that camera lenses can compress distances. Still, there was no mistaking the lack of face masks on the boardwalk. 

Meehan is pushing for a quicker opening of restaurants and bars as a way to better control crowds.

Carney and Meehan both rolled the dice last weekend.

By restricting hotels and Airbnbs to essential travel, Carney put a big financial dent in a busy holiday period for coastal Delaware businesses. 

Meehan’s “come on down pitch”  may have done more lasting damage to the Ocean City brand, which has burnished its image as a family resort. The town recently won a lawsuit over whether women can  legally go topless on the beach.

Meehan runs the risk of seeing generations of families that converge on Maryland’s stretch of the beach having second thoughts. 

Delaware will still  face crowd issues as the mercury climbs.

On the plus side, Delaware’s reputation as a more laid back alternative to the congestion and high rises of Ocean City remains intact despite the setback over St. Patrick’s Day weekend in March that led to harsh beach and boardwalk restrictions.

An  area south of Dewey Beach that extends to the edge of Ocean City  bills itself as the “Quiet Resorts.” It might worthwhile for beach towns to the north to borrow that branding  in the age of COVID. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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