OCEAN CITY — Resort officials late Sunday evening reinforced the strong message advising out-of-town visitors to stay away from Ocean City until further notice and extended the closure of the beach and Boardwalk until April 30.
Last Sunday, the Mayor and Council officially closed the beaches and Boardwalk until April 15. On Sunday, those closures were extended until April 30. In addition, the Inlet parking lot has also been closed for the same time period.
However, the strongest message to come out of the hours-long closed session was for out-of-town visitors to heed the town’s warning, and Governor Larry Hogan’s directives, to limit travel and to stay in the area of their primary residences.
Mayor Rick Meehan said many have complied with the directives to simply stay home and not visit the resort area and that is helping achieve the desired results. However, many more are ignoring the directives and are still heading to Ocean City. Anecdotally, there was no shortage of license plates in town all weekend from New York, New Jersey and other areas.
“We’ve seen some impact with regards to people heeding the directives to just stay away for now and there is evidence of fewer cars on the road and fewer cars in parking lots,” he said. “Still, there are many that aren’t heeding the warnings. Again, we are asking people to please not come to Ocean City at this time. We can’t emphasize that enough.”
It is unclear if the town has the legal right to prevent condo owners from renting their properties or for out-of-town property owners from visiting their own second homes. Nonetheless, Meehan urged non-resident owners to comply with the directives.
“We are working on our emergency operations plan and we will take the appropriate action,” he said. “Property owners need to work with us. Please do not rent your condos in Ocean City until April 30 or until advised otherwise. It is their right to rent their properties but we’re asking that they don’t.”
Meehan said the town is also working with Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association members on a similarly strong message. The Mayor said many of the larger rental companies are complying but another segment that needs to be advised are ‘for rent by owner’ platforms such as Airbnb for example.
Meehan said the sooner everyone complied with the directives the sooner there can be a return to some semblance or normalcy.
“If we all work together and not lose all of the ground we’ve gained, hopefully we can get our season up and going sooner rather than later,” he said.