By MADDY VITALE
Dan and Sue Dotsey and their family sat under an ample-sized cabana, large enough for the Havertown, Pa., couple and their two daughters to spread out with their beach supplies Sunday afternoon.
The cabana is about seven feet high, which is good since Dan Dotsey is 6 foot 4 inches tall, he noted with a laugh.
But there are other benefits to the cabana — especially in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, he said.
“We love it. Especially now,” Dan said. “It gives you more space for social distancing. It is like having a room on the beach.”
The Dotseys, like other beachgoers on the balmy Father’s Day, lounged under cabanas and tents.
On May 14, City Council approved a resolution to limit the locations and sizes of cabanas, canopies, and tents. Beach umbrellas and “baby pop-up tents” are not included.
While the cabanas are still banned this summer on the beaches between First and 10th streets, some other restrictions have been eased in a revised set of regulations approved by Council this month, officials said.
Initially, the canopies and cabanas had to be placed at the back of the beach within 10 feet of the dunes and could be no bigger than 8 feet wide by 6 feet deep by 6 feet tall.
The new regulations now allow cabanas up to 10 feet by 10 feet and no longer require them to be placed at the back of the beach.
This week, Ocean City Public Information Officer Doug Bergen explained some of the amended regulations approved at a City Council meeting June 11.
He explained that the ban on cabanas this summer from First to 10th Street was due to the fact that the beaches there are narrow. But a beach replenishment project beginning this week will widen the beaches for later on during the summer season.
For people such as the Dotseys, the idea of using the cabanas has a lot of benefits for their family.
The Dotseys, who spend their summers in Ocean City, said it is a safe way to get out of the sun and enjoy the beach for the entire day.
“We bring so much stuff,” Sue Dotsey noted, adding that the family likes to put their cabana closer to the entrance to the 34th Street beach.
For the couple’s daughters, Rian, 13, and Caroline, 15, it gives them a choice – sun or no sun.
“We can choose if we want to be in the sun or in a nice cool spot,” Rian said.
“It is nice to be able to have your own space,” Caroline added.
While the Dotseys sit at the back of the beach closest to the entrance for convenience, other beachgoers erected canopies and cabanas nearer to the water.
Juan Julien and Victor Carrera, a married couple from Hudson County, came down for an extended weekend at the Jersey Shore and lounged under a canopy at the 34th Street beach.
They didn’t know there were any restrictions on the size of canopies and cabanas, but they noted that people should use common sense.
“As long as they are within reason, they should be OK,” Julien said of the height and width of the canopies and cabanas.
“I think seeing the canopies and cabanas is a good sign that people are doing what they can to use social distancing,” Carrera said. “People are being safe.”
Bergen said the city has taken logistics into account with the restrictions.
“The revisions recognize the difficulty of enforcement across eight miles of beach – especially at a time when police and city personnel face an extraordinary burden with so many people in town and so many new restrictions,” Bergen pointed out. “But that will not eliminate the need for social distancing on all beaches.”
He emphasized that the goal is to make the experience positive for all beachgoers.
“To make more room for all beachgoers, the city will ask owners who erect canopies to sit underneath them and to set up in the less crowded area toward the back of the beach,” Bergen said.
Signs explaining the cabana regulations are being ordered, and enforcement will start with education and a request for voluntary compliance. Any potential fine would be decided in municipal court, Bergen said.