OCEAN CITY – Last weekend marked one of the busiest Memorial Day holiday weekends in recent history with town officials reporting the largest crowds since 1994.
According to the town’s demoflush numbers, the Memorial Day weekend crowds were up 8 percent over last year’s holiday affair. The demoflush numbers come from a system that calculates the number of people in town during a certain period of time, such as during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The figures are based on wastewater flow from the resort and are used as fairly accurate estimates.
This year’s three-day holiday weekend totaled an estimated 259,823 people, topping last year, which brought in 239,789 people. This past Memorial Day weekend was the busiest since 1994, which saw about 260,432 people, according to demoflush. The numbers have varied since 1994, reaching as low as 197,725 in 2003. This weekend’s numbers are promising for local businesses, providing a good kickoff for the summer season.
Several local businesses commented on the weekend agreeing that the weather was a huge factor, making it a good weekend.
Belly Busters owner Mac Scrimgeour felt the effects of the additional visitors in his numbers.
“Sunday was one of the busiest one’s we’ve ever had,” he said.
Scrimgeour attributes the boom in business this weekend to the weather, in particular the extended forecast for a pleasant weekend. He also attributes it to the extended cold spring, saying it was the first really warm holiday weekend and that people were ready for it.
As for the rest of the summer, the restaurateur hopes that this past weekend was a preview for a busy summer, “especially after a spring that started out slower because of chilly weather.”
Scrimgeour also mentioned the increase in gas prices before the holiday weekend, saying he was glad to see that it did not impact the weekend and does not think it’ll keep people from driving to the beach.
Buxy’s Salty Dog Saloon owner Doug Buxbaum has high hopes for this season after a memorable May spurred on by special events.
“We’re very happy and delighted with all of May from Springfest to Cruisin’ weekend to the Memorial Day weekend,” he said.
Buxbaum said that the Memorial Day holiday weekend is always a good weekend and is usually consistent for his 28th Street business. Although this weekend was busier than some Memorial Day weekends in the past, he felt the crowds were more controlled this year with a less hectic weekend.
Buxbaum commented on the weather, particularly the rainstorm on late Saturday afternoon. He said that the rain did not affect business, rather it gave everyone a chance to go home and get ready for the evening.
Although all the businesses interviewed agreed the good weather brought people to town, but not everyone agreed that there was an increase in business.
Joey Kroart of Ocean Gallery on the Boardwalk agreed that the Memorial Day weekend weather was great for the first time in years, bringing a lot of people to town. He did not, however, see the significant increase in business that some of the restaurants and bars experienced.
“Even when the crowd was here, there wasn’t a lot of spending going on,” he said.
For Kroart, this past weekend was a reflection of the slow winter and spring that the town suffered through.
“The gas prices are having a major effect on retail businesses,” said Kroart.
Kroart explained that an increase in transportation cost results in an increase in wholesale prices. That hike affects the retailer, leaving them with two options – either absorb the costs or increase their prices. He went on to say that it is costing people a lot to get down to the ocean, leaving little money left over for luxury items or non-necessity items such as art.
“Hopefully things will rebound,” said Kroart.
Purple Moose Saloon Chief Financial Officer Charlene Carr described this past weekend as a “solid, fine weekend”. She was happy with business, as they usually are with the Memorial Day weekend business.
Carr said that she was also pleased with the weather, but that “good weather brings them here, but when weather is too good it keeps them out on the beach”.
In response to the issue of gas prices that other businesses are concerned with, Carr said she did not think it would affect business. She said that a $10 to $15 increase in the price to travel down here would not keep people away, but that the increase in accommodation prices would. She feels that the increasing costs of staying in town will have more of an affect than increasing costs of getting to town. As a result, she said that she predicts a cyclical summer, bringing more people in the three day time period of Friday-Saturday-Sunday, and sees Monday through Thursday as possibly not being viable business days.