(May 31, 2013) After resort businesses, restaurants and lodging properties endured a less-than-stellar spring as cool temperatures kept visitors from the beach, most are optimistic about the summer season, considering the profitable Memorial Day weekend many had.
“Everyone I talked to had a very slow spring thanks to the cold, wet weather, so the business they saw this past weekend was quite welcome,” said Susan Jones, executive director of the Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association.
Added Jessica Waters, communications manager for the Town of Ocean City, “It has definitely been a cool spring, which has likely had an effect on businesses and travel, but we are very optimistic for the summer.”
“If nothing else, I think the cool spring has made visitors even more excited to get down to the beach now that the temperature is warming,” she said.
Waters said the chilly weather last Friday may have had an impact on some vacationers, but she, as well as Jones, have heard favorable feedback and positive reports from the resort business community.
“Weather is definitely a factor on holiday weekends like Memorial Day. Thankfully, besides some wind on Saturday, the rest of the weekend was absolutely beautiful and lots of people were on the beach and Boardwalk, myself included,” Waters said.
Jones spoke to a number of representatives from Ocean City businesses and lodging properties and many were pleased with the weekend overall.
“Business-wise, everyone did pretty well,” she said. “I feel like it was a good way to kick off the summer.”
There are about 108 Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association lodging members (hotels, motels and some apartments) with around 9,500 rooms. Jones said vacancies were more prevalent on Friday and Sunday than Saturday, as a number of lodging properties were sold out.
According to demoflush statistics, which uses wastewater flows to estimate the city’s population, an average of 231,548 people were in town last weekend. That was down from 2012, when 281,812 people visited the resort to take advantage of the warm weather and holiday activities.
Last year’s estimated total was the second-highest during the holiday weekend, according to city files dating back to 1992. The first was 281,895, recorded during the 2011 Memorial Day weekend.
Dena and Delmar Smith own four businesses – Treasure Island women’s boutique, Doggie Style Café K9 featuring pet products and merchandise, the Frog Bar & Grill and Monkey Doodles children’s clothing and apparel shop – all located in the Inlet Village at the southern end of the Ocean City Boardwalk.
Delmar Smith said business was slow on Friday because of the cooler weather and wind, but it picked up Saturday and Sunday at his establishments.
“Memorial Day itself was surprisingly very busy,” he said. “The Frog Bar was way up from Memorial Day Monday last year. The stores were about the same sales-wise from last year.”
The Frog Bar opened for the season St. Patrick’s Day weekend and the stores, two weeks later.
“The spring was overall slower, but as soon as the weather breaks and the kids get out of school, I think we’ll have a good season,” he said.
Carl Bozick, general manager of Macky’s Bayside, on 54th Street –the Restaurant Association of Maryland’s 2013 “Favorite Bar or Tavern” – is also optimistic about the summer after the weekend.
“The people were here, all ready to spend money to eat and drink,” he said.
The wind and cool weather affected business on Friday, as diners did not want to eat lunch or dinner on the bayside restaurant’s beach. The weather was a factor during the day on Saturday, but by dinnertime, the wind had died down a bit and people sat outside for dinner.
Bozick said Sunday was the second-best day for business in Macky’s 20-year history. The top day was Saturday during the 2012 Memorial Day weekend.
The weather did not deter the late-night crowd Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Even Thursday night was busy, as people arrived into town early to celebrate the holiday weekend.
Bozick said Macky’s had a decent lunch crowd on Monday as visitors stopped in for a bite to eat before leaving town. He was also pleased with the number of people at the restaurant during happy hour, as tables and seats around the bar were full.
“Overall, it was a great weekend. We rocked,” Bozick said.
“We would have been a little busier Friday and Saturday for lunch and dinner if it was less windy, but overall we’re happy. The late-night crowd was amazing,” he said. “Had the weather been nicer, we probably would have set records all three days.”
Fish Tales, voted Maryland’s “Favorite Bar or Tavern” in 2011, also has outdoor dining and faced the same issues as Macky’s.
“Friday was no good for us. With the west wind, no one wanted to sit outside and we had to keep the curtains down all day to keep the wind out [of the bar area],” said Manager Brandon Hemp.
“Saturday was better. Everything was fully open and people sat outside during the day, even though it was still a little chilly,” he said.
The late-night crowd was strong Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the busiest day of the weekend for Fish Tales, Hemp said. He was also pleased with the lunchtime crowd on Monday.
“The weekend started off slow because of the cold, west wind, but each day the weather got better, business got better,” he said. “The weekend ended pretty good. It can always be better, but we’re happy.”
He said the spring was “rough” for Fish Tales, which opened for the season on April 10.
“Being an outdoor bar, we’re so dependent on nice weather and it just feels like we had a very slow start. We’d have one or two nice, sunny days and then three or four cold, dark, gloomy days,” he said.
“I want to pack my sweatshirts away and not see them again until October. We want it to get warm and we want to be busy. We’re ready for summer to get going.”
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan is confident Ocean City will have a great summer, especially with the number of events, including the Air Show (June 8-9) and Dew Tour (June 20-23), scheduled over the next few months.
“We had a large number of visitors come to town [during the Memorial Day weekend]. I think the weather certainly could have been a little better and might have deterred some people in making their plans, but if they didn’t come this weekend, they’ll probably come next weekend,” he said. “Even though, maybe it wasn’t quite perfect beach weather – although, Sunday and Monday there were a lot of people on the beach as the sun did come out and the wind did lay down – there were big crowds on the Boardwalk and I think people went out and enjoyed the other things that Ocean City has to offer.”
“I think everybody left having a good experience over Memorial Day weekend, which is going to help us build as the summer moves forward,” he said.
One positive indicator that guests are planning to visit the resort is that reservations have been booked in advance. In the past, people would wait until the last minute to book a room.
“Advanced bookings for July and August look stronger than last year. I hear that from just about everyone I’ve talked to, so I’m cautiously optimistic it will be a good season,” Jones said.