Tourism is a nearly $40 billion industry in New Jersey, and shore towns are counting on a good summer to help them recoup major losses they incurred after the storm. A storm that parked itself over the shore and was expected to bring rain through Sunday morning didn’t exactly help.
But Kevin Stewart, owner of JR’s Ocean Bar & Grill on the boardwalk, led a Champagne toast with his bar employees right after Christie cut the ribbon.
“Here’s to a great summer!” he said as they clinked plastic cups that would normally be filled with beer.
JR’s only put up its new sign at 5:30 a.m. Friday, about 90 minutes before Christie arrived for his broadcast. The business was devastated by Sandy, with 6 feet of water in it that left behind 5 feet of sand. It lost all its inventory and signs, which cost about $300,000 to replace.
But Stewart said he is optimistic about this summer at the shore.
“If we get good weather, the people will still come here,” he said. “Ninety percent or better of this town is rebuilt and ready to go. At the end of the day, this just might work.”
Mark Romanowski, a bartender at JR’s, said the “Jersey Strong” slogan that has adorned T-shirts, bumper stickers and sweatshirts for fundraising efforts since the storm is not a cliche.
“It really is the mentality we have here,” he said. “People in Jersey, we may have our differences but the one common denominator is we have each other’s backs.”