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Rehoboth Beach sees massive drop in local business since pandemic

Karl Malgiero
Delaware Public Media

The City of Rehoboth Beach is grappling between keeping local businesses alive and preventing the spread of COVID-19

Delaware’s beachside towns rely on tourism to support the local economy, but because of COVID-19, many businesses have seen a large decline in visitors.


The Rehoboth Beach Board of Commissioners are treading the line between ensuring business stays alive in the town and preventing an outbreak of the virus.


 Rehoboth and Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce President Carol Everhart conducted a survey of business owners in Rehoboth Beach.


Just the responses from 76 members out of the total 1200 business owners are enough to highlight the economic downturn the city is facing.


“The loss of revenue, January 2019 to July 6th 2019 compared to 2020, same date. That loss is $205,745,277. That’s the loss from that small group.”


The Board of Commissioners has tried to boost tourism to the town with initiatives like free parking on Mondays and allowing restaurants and retail stores to utilize sidewalk space through spring of next year.


Some citizens, like Sturges Dodge, have expressed frustration at the state as a whole for not helping beach resort communities like Rehoboth Beach.


“I’m failing to hear a plan. I’m failing to hear any specific advice. And I’m also really cognizant that we have one square mile but things that are happening on Route 1 definitely affects what happens in our town in terms of virus spread.”


Dodge notes while the state is appearing to continue to improve in terms of active cases, Delaware was just added to four mandatory quarantine lists from three other states and the District of Columbia.


Jeff Balk, manager of Radio Rehoboth sent the commission a letter concerned that Rehoboth Beach isn’t doing enough to enforce mask requirements.


According to Comissioner Susan Gay, many of the police officers enforcing mask regulations have not been made aware of the specific requirements around who needs to wear a mask and who doesn’t - leaving many of the rules to go unenforced.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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