This coming weekend will be a test for Rehoboth Beach as the city reopens its beaches and boardwalk Friday. The coming 80 degree temperatures could bring crowds to the city's first experiment in reopening after the coronavirus lockdowns.
Officials made the call in a Zoom meeting that lasted more than four hours Tuesday. From Friday on, the beaches and boardwalk will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for walking or jogging.
Swimming will not be allowed, and visitors should wear masks. And similar to the approach taken at the Jersey Shore, beachgoers will have to keep it moving and not sunbathe.
Mayor Paul Kuhns and the city commissioners made the decision after they were read several letters from business owners, residents and frequent visitors weighing in on reopening. Copies of those letters, and the meeting agenda, are posted here.
Small business owners urged for reopening sooner rather than later as the shutdowns have hurt their bottom line. Just one example is 12 restaurant owners who co-signed a letter with recommendations for the city: allowing sidewalk dining and sales to increase space for distancing. The owners also floated the idea of waiving open container laws within a limited area so restaurants could sell to--go drinks. Those owners strongly supported beach and boardwalk reopening as well.
"None of us expect to thrive until this pandemic has forever passed," the letter reads. "Many will close their doors and never reopen. The remainder of us hope to survive."
Officials in Rehoboth are weighing other changes after reopening, like limiting street parking to allow more space for pedestrians to spread out.
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On some streets, “the walkways ... are just too narrow,” Commissioner Pat Coluzzi said.
Commissioner Lisa Schlosser wants the city to stop discouraging second homeowners from visiting their property.
“It’s about behavior and not license plates," she said. "If you’re a second homeowner, you should be able to come into town, that’s my opinion on that."
The decision to reopen the beaches Friday comes ahead of a "Reopen Delaware" protest planned for Saturday in Rehoboth. Police wrote in a Facebook post that the protesters have the right to speak, but should "please respect the other members of the community by adhering to the mandates established by the current State of Emergency regarding social distancing and the use of face masks."
The city is holding another meeting Friday to discuss parking.