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SEASIDE — Sitting a bit forlornly Tuesday morning on the base of the Coleman Beach Pavilion at Seaside, 12-year-old Addie Edwards lamented the fact that the town’s stretch of private beach had been closed.
"We found out last night," she said, sitting with her 10-year-old sister, Crosby, and their friend, 14-year-old Cate Puckett, all vacationing with their families until Saturday at the popular County Road 30A vacation and day-trip spot.
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Still, all wasn’t lost, as the girls made plans to visit the shops along the beachfront, and maybe to go to another nearby open public beach sometime later in the day.
"There’s like beaches down the road," Cate said. And, the girls added, there was also always the pool at their vacation residence.
Sadly, for others affected by the Seaside Community Development Corporation’s Monday announcement that concerns about coronavirus had prompted a decision to close beaches at 5 p.m. Monday — and to close the town’s commercial area at noon on this upcoming Saturday, both until April 30 — it’s not that simple.
"Our town founders and leadership team believe the only decision that makes health and safety a top priority is to close Seaside until April 30, 2020," the SCDC said in a Monday email. "Our hope is this decision will help save lives ... ."
Food-service businesses in Seaside, from the Airstream trailers lining one side of 30A, to the pizza and burger joints on the other side of the road, to restaurants like Great Southern, and the Modica Market, will be allowed to operate during the commercial shutdown, but only on a take-out basis.
By Tuesday morning, a number of food-service businesses had taken steps to facilitate "social distancing" among patrons -- a recommended step to slow the spread of coronavirus -- by increasing the spacing between tables.
Food-service business owners appeared Tuesday to be taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the shutdown.
Burak Akkan, owner of the Mr. Gyro Hero food trailer — he opened the business just a week ago -- is going to at least try the to-go-only option.
"It’s going to affect our business, definitely," said Akkan. And that, in turn, will affect how many of the food trailer’s six employees he can keep on the job, he said.
"But I agree with them," Akkan said of the SCDC shutdown. "I was expecting it. It is what it is."
A short distance away, Tony Campbell, a long-time employee of Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs, said it plans to stay open for to-go orders, adjusting the hours of its three full-time and three part-time employees as business volume dictates.
"We were wide-open yesterday," Campbell said as he and two other workers geared up for Tuesday’s lunchtime crowd. But, Campbell said, he’s worried about happens after Saturday, when the current crowd of vacationers leaves Seaside and a new group moves in — or maybe doesn’t.
For Bert Summerville, there’s no mystery about what’s going to happen after Saturday with Seaside vacationers. She owns two rental condominiums in Seaside, and said Tuesday she’d had nearly a half-dozen cancellations. Prior to the announcement, she’d had both units rented for the entirety of the six-week shutdown, she said.
"People are not going to want to rent, because they can’t get to the beach," she said.
Summerville stands to take a double hit from the SCDC decision. In addition to owning the two rental properties, she owns Art & Things, a combination art gallery, T-shirt and souvenir shop in Seaside’s commercial district.
"It’s a huge financial hit," said Summerville. And, she added, it’s not limited to her own finances; it will also hit her two employees. "They’re going to lose six weeks of pay," she said.
One of those employees, associate manager Jerad Reynolds, a 41-year-old single man, said he’ll be going into "hunker-bunker mode" to get through the next six weeks.
"It’s a scary time for lots of folks," he said as he contemplated himself and others without work for well over a month.
"I get it," Reynolds, who has some money set aside, said of the coronavirus-related precautions, "but ... ."
At the same time, however, Reynolds noted that Art & Things had, in fact, seen a decline in patrons even before the SCDC decision.
"Even last week, we were seeing less numbers than we should have," he said, adding that on Tuesday, there were "a very different amount of people here than yesterday."
Summerville, a sharp critic of the SCDC decision, has already been circulating an email among other Seaside business owners affected by the ban.
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Noting that Seaside is, thus far, alone in the area in taking such far-reaching steps to limit public presence in a prime vacation area, Summerville wondered aloud Tuesday "why in the world they (the SCDC) have taken this drastic step."
"We’re open-air," Summerville said, standing in the wide walkway between two rows of commercial and residential buildings in Seaside, making a case for keeping Seaside’s businesses open. "We’ve got sunshine."
And, she added, her business has hand sanitizer, and she’d also be willing to limit occupancy of her shop to 10 people at a time.
But even as Seaside’s beaches were closing Monday, the community association for WaterColor, a resort community immediately west of Seaside, also was announcing some steps designed to limit public contact.
WaterColor on Monday canceled its upcoming Art in the Park event, its Easter sunrise service and the Easter Egg Hunt & Toss.
"At this time, amenities remain open," a WaterColor Community Association announcement read, but the announcement also noted that there will be "increased cleaning and sanitizing of high-traffic areas." .
Meanwhile, people wrapping up their vacations at Seaside this week, while mindful of the increasingly tightening governmental, business and other decisions on protecting the public health during the coronavirus pandemic, also weren’t in any hurry to leave.
Brian Berry, visiting from Pittsburgh, who made his reservation well before coronavirus became a public health issue, isn’t concerned about finishing out his vacation through Saturday.
"I’m just going to do precautionary things, like wash my hands," he said as he walked among the rows of Seaside shops. "I’m not going to run scared."