Fourth brought beach business bingo

July 06, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

OCEAN CITY -- They came. They filled motel rooms and condos. They lined up at restaurants. And they left hoteliers and merchants here hopeful the summer season would not be a bust after all.

"It's been a super weekend," said Art Hitch, manager of the 40-room Empress Hotel and the owner of a 21-unit apartment building. "We're finally full. The weather hit and people were thinking the beach."

Tourism officials estimated the weekend holiday crowd at 325,000 but said that more accurate figures would be available later in the week after sewage flow is studied.

"I thought we had a great crowd in town," said Martha O. Clements, a spokeswoman for the town's Tourism and Community Relations Department.

"To the best of my knowledge, every hotel or condo was full. There were no vacancies. I think it was a great weekend."

The weekend was not without tragedy or confrontation, however.

Saturday morning, three people were killed in a head-on collision on Route 90, west of Ocean City.

Later that day, during a Ku Klux Klan recruitment rally on the boardwalk, four people, including one Klansman, were arrested in separate incidents, police said.

And Saturday evening, an Alexandria, Va., man was injured when he was thrown from his boat after hitting a sandbar in the Isle of Wight Bay. Dale Lisi, 24, was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she was reported to be in serious but stable condition.

From 7 p.m. Friday until noonyesterday, Ocean City police arrested 100 adults and eight juveniles, most of them on charges relating to noise, disorderly conduct and alcohol violations.

"Overall, it's been a pretty uneventful Fourth of July weekend," said Jay Hancock, a police spokesman. "We've had the normal offenses you'd expect to find on a busy weekend."

Traffic on westbound Route 50 from Ocean City to the Bay Bridge was heavy, but no traffic problems or tie-ups were reported.

"There are some delays at signals on the Eastern Shore but there have been no problems over the bridge," said Bob French, a staff engineer for the State Highway Administration.

About 3,400 vehicles an hour were reported crossing the bridge at 5 p.m., and traffic was expected to peak later in the evening.

"It would have peaked by now, but because of the beautiful weather, people are staying at the beach," Mr. French said.

In Ocean City, the crowds were welcomed by the resort's business community, which has suffered a lackluster season because of the cold, rainy weather.

"We finally had good weather," said Steve "Rico" Rossi, general manager of Seacrets, a Jamaican-style restaurant and bar on the bay. "What rain we did get didn't affect us. We had lines every single night. For us, it was a record weekend. There's no doubt about that."

Business at Fager's Island, a restaurant and 110-room hotel complex, also was reported lively.

"The weekend was terrific," said owner John Fager. "We were at 100 percent capacity Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The restaurant was sold out, too. I guess you can't do any better than that."

Like other business owners, he credited the weather with drawing crowds to the resort.

"People have been waiting for months for beach weather like this," Mr. Fager said.

Forests of umbrellas sprouted along the town's 10 miles of beaches yesterday as the mercury soared toward a high of 88 degrees. The water temperature reached 66 degrees.

Bernie Helder, a carpenter from Levittown, Pa., arrived at the beach off 139th Street early, making several trips to and from his car to set up a blue blanket, several beach chairs and toys in the sand.

"It's crowded, but things are fairly convenient here," he said, noting this was his third trip to Ocean City.

Boogie boards were the hot item of the day along the beach.

"We've been out of boogie boards," said Amy Copeland, a Montgomery College student from Potomac who was stationed at a rental stand at 139th Street.

"We're just starting to get some back."

From her shaded vantage point, the beaches seemed more crowded than they did during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

"It's been really slow all summer but it's picked up a lot this weekend," she said.

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