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Jersey shore tourism struggles: first superstorm Sandy, now a tornado of fire

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On average, Seaside Heights takes in about $1.2 million from beach badge sales a year – one marker of the number of visitors every year. This dollar figure spiked during the pre-Sandy summers when the hit MTV reality show “Jersey Shore” brought thousands of new visitors.

By this August, however, sales were only near $800,000, according to Seaside Heights borough administrator John Camera, as reported by the Newark Star-Ledger.

“Seaside Heights was not able to rebound the way other communities along the Jersey shore did because it was hit by Hurricane Sandy harder than any other area,” e-mails David Fiorenza, an economist at Villanova University School of Business in Pennsylvania. “Rentals were down this summer as the boardwalk and attractions were not ready. If this horrible fire did not hit [Thursday], Seaside Heights would have been able to rebound by next summer.”

Of the town’s $12 million annual budget, $7 million is drawn from summer tourism, according to Seaside Heights officials.

“I would say we were probably 30 to 35 percent off this summer,” says Ron Rinaldi, a manager at the Sawmill Café. The restaurant is the lone business left standing in the area, according to Mr. Rinaldi, who witnessed the fire as it spread.

“Most of the other businesses on the boardwalk were probably off more” this summer, he says. “I mean, we were lucky. We’re a large restaurant with a liquor license, and we have indoor seating.”

The fire began 10 feet north from Sawmill at Kohr’s Frozen Custard, an ice-cream stand that has been part of the Seaside communities since 1919.

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