Normally, the popular concession stands along the Boardwalk in the Rockways would be humming with activity as the first big holiday weekend of the summer season begins. But with a pandemic raging, vendors say they have been getting mixed messages from the city about whether they can open.
On WNYC Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said his message is clear.
“You can’t swim. There are not lifeguards on duty. Then all of the things in the state guidelines. There’s no sports, there’s no barbecuing. You know, all sorts of things. No concessions,” said the mayor.
But the Parks Department says concessions are authorized to open on a limited basis.
A spokeswoman adds vendors will have to adhere to new regulations to ensure social distancing, including simplified menus, added signage and reduced service - only food to go.
A mayoral aide then clarified the mayor's position, saying vendors can open for food takeout only and that "other concessions" are not allowed, which is what she says the mayor was referring to.
One operator at Beach 107th Street says she's so confused, she will not open this weekend — and will wait to see what happens going forward.
On Beach 17th Street, Charles Jacobs’ Dred Surfer Grill has a more unusual arrangement with the city — his Far Rockaway boardwalk restaurant is open year round.
Right now, he’s only open for takeout and delivery. He says his business is down about 85 percent versus the same period last year.
“It has hit our bottom line severely. But we’re coping with it the best that we can,” Jacobs says.
On the west end of the peninsula— the Riis Park Beach Bazaar expects visitors this weekend and is preparing to serve them safely.
The beach at Jacob Riis Park is governed by the National Parks Service and federal regulations.
Food is available to go from the Dropout Restaurant, but you have to wear a mask to order. No alcohol will be served because it’s not allowed on the sand, and there is no designated seating area for drinkers.
“We’re not allowed to encourage gathering and what not. We want to keep everyone safe,” said Julia Steinberg, the owner of the Dropout.
“It’s an unfortunate situation for everybody involved. But our priority stands with the health and safety of the public and our employees and staff,” said Katie Carey, the bar manager at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar.
A far cry from beach days in years past — now just a hazy summer memory.