Is COVID-19 still affecting your routine? NJ businesses see changing behaviors
New Jersey restaurants, gyms and theaters have been allowed for months to operate at full capacity, following several months of pandemic-induced limitations.
But in order for that to matter, businesses need consumer demand.
While some spots in the Garden State claim business is similar to pre-pandemic days, others are working to get used to operating in a different way — temporarily, they hope — as New Jersey residents come out of their shells, some quicker than others.
"First choice, people want to be outside, but will come inside reluctantly," Rob Johnson, owner at Woody's Roadside Tavern, told New Jersey 101.5.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 health crisis, Woody's has expanded its outdoor seating area to handle about 250 patrons. Because of that, Johnson said, business is steady. But if there's a rainy day, customer activity noticeably drops off.
Johnson noted there's a segment of Woody's customer base that has felt comfortable eating indoors for as long as it's been permitted — some folks just need to do it once in order to feel comfortable, he added.
"Occasionally we see a person wearing a mask inside," Johnson said.
Because the setup was too difficult for servers in 2020, Rainbow Diner in Brick decided against another summer of outdoor seating in 2021. And that hasn't really impacted business, according to owner Sharon Hrisafinis.
Indoors, Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings are as busy now as they were before COVID-19 started impacting the state last March, she said.
"I think people are happy to be out, taking proper precautions, whatever they're comfortable with," Hrisafinis said.
Membership is close to 40% lower than pre-COVID days at The Atlantic Club, a health and fitness center with locations in Manasquan and Red Bank.
"We thought a higher percentage of our customers would come back immediately," said chief operating officer Kevin McHugh. "We're seeing them come back slower, but we're seeing people that never were members here before coming in."
Activity at the gyms has lightened up a bit in recent weeks, likely due to concerns about the Delta variant of COVID-19, McHugh said. But the renewed threat hasn't resulted in a tsunami of account suspensions or terminations.
More members are wearing masks while indoors, he added.
In the short term, The Atlantic Club is looking to regain the middle-aged female market. Senior citizens, McHugh said, came back to work out when gyms reopened their doors, but mothers in the 35 to 55 age range seem to still be on the sidelines due to unsteady schedules caused by the pandemic.
"Our members that are back are very comfortable here," McHugh added. "We are socially distanced with our equipment. And I will tell you that people do clean more than they've ever cleaned before, in addition to what we do as health club owners."