May 22, 2020 at 4:12 pm EDT | by Joshua Keller
Rehoboth beaches set to reopen
Rehoboth’s boardwalk reopened last week; beaches reopen for sunbathing on Friday, May 22 at 5 p.m. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Just in time for Memorial Day Weekend, Delaware beaches and boardwalks, including in Rehoboth, will open on May 22 at 5 p.m.

With the New Jersey and Maryland beaches already open, Delaware remained the Mid-Atlantic’s lone holdout. However, Hugh Fuller, owner of the Purple Parrot, sees the move as timed to provide more space to deal with the inevitable surge in visitors that come with Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer.

“They’re trying to accommodate the crowds that will show up whether we want them to or not,” said Fuller.

Safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be enforced. Face masks are required on the boardwalk and encouraged on the beach. Also, groups on the beach will need to remain six feet away from other groups.

Out-of-state visitors still are not allowed to rent properties and will have to quarantine for 14 days before venturing out and enjoying the reopened oceanfront.

While the beaches and boardwalks may be open, Rehoboth businesses, including restaurants, retail stores, and gyms, cannot begin welcoming customers inside until Delaware’s first phase of reopening begins on June 1. On that date, businesses will have to restrict occupancy to 30 percent of their maximum levels and follow numerous public health guidelines, including only letting customers use the bathroom one at a time and requiring reservations at all restaurants.

In a beach town where the population can swell from under 2,000 to over 40,000 on a typical summer day, restrictions on visitors coupled with a reduced capacity to welcome customers combine to create an extremely challenging environment for businesses.

When businesses reopen, the Purple Parrot will only be able to seat eight tables of customers, compared to its normal 35 tables. Fuller is not sure that limited capacity makes it worthwhile to reopen the inside. He is hopeful that the Phase 1 restrictions will last no more than two weeks, but no details about Phase 2 have been communicated to business owners yet.

“A lot of businesses want to open but are nervous about opening because they just don’t know what to expect,” said Fuller.

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