NEW YORK — Before Thai Rock even opens for lunch service, kitchen staff preps furiously for the lunch rush.

Owner Robert Kaskel is happy his restaurant is fully staffed once again.

But while he says he’s seen an increase in diners —

“I don’t see an active bar life. I have some people starting to return to the bar. But when you’re a full service restaurant in a beach town, your bar is a really big part of your business,” Kaskel said. “I’m not getting that right now.”

What You Need To Know

  • For many small businesses on the Rockaway peninsula, the summer season is the busiest time of year

  • Last year, coronavirus restrictions kept the crowds away

  • A rainy Memorial Day weekend this year meant visitors were down

  • But data from NYC Ferry shows ridership is up compared to last year, with 2,200 people taking the Rockaway route on average since Memorial Day weekend

Kaskel said a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan helped him keep the doors open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another boost came from Rockaway Jet Ski, the water sports business he owned next door. Rental revenue kept him afloat while dining capacity was limited. He sold the jet ski shop in April.

He said business was booming through the pandemic, and continues to attract thrill-seekers eager to get out on the water.

“If you’re concerned about being close to other people, it’s the perfect sport because you’re all by yourself on a jet ski, dashing through the bay,” Kaskel said.

Over on the boardwalk, staff at Boarders on the Boardwalk say it’s been a busy season so far. Last summer, customers were not allowed to enter the surf shop due to coronavirus restrictions. This year, staff is happy to welcome them in.

“It’s been amazing out here. So many people are coming down from all over. Not even just Manhattan and Brooklyn, the Bronx. They’re coming from different states,” said Shane Crockett, an employee. “Everyone just wants to go to the beach and have fun now that everything is opening up.”

While the parks department has been forced to close parts of Rockaway Beach to swimmers due to extensive beach erosion, during this week’s heat wave the sand at Beach 97th Street was still packed with sun worshipers.

According to the city’s Economic Development Corporation, the Rockaway ferry route saw about 8,500 riders last weekend.

While data showed a rainy Memorial Day weekend was a washout for the city’s beaches this year, bringing only 2.800 ferry riders to the peninsula this Memorial Day weekend, it’s still an increase from the 1,600 people who took the ferry to Rockaway Memorial Day weekend 2020.

Back on the bay side, Kaskel is hopeful heading into the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

“This beach season is definitely going to be better,” Kaskel said. “And it’s already better than last season. There’s no doubt about that.”


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