Ocean City Businesses Struggle Throughout The Summer


Andrew Cummings, Staff Writer

Ocean City is crowded resort town that is visited by about 8 million tourists every year. With our J-1 students, Ocean City’s businesses can thrive during the peak summer season. 

Unfortunately, for the past two years, businesses were not able to get help they needed, according to Buddy Trala, managing partner of the West Ocean City restaurant Sunset Grille.

We had contracted 32 students,” he said. “We ended up only getting 14.”

He said Sunset Grille and other restaurants around Ocean City faced a shortage in staff. As a result of a lack of kitchen staff, Trala said his restaurant modified its menu and discontinued labor-intensive meals.

During the off-season, business owners and sponsors usually go to other countries to train and pick J-1 students to work for them during the summer. J-1 visas are for college students from countries that come to the United States to take part in a work-study exchange program, run by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. 

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the resort town was in trouble. Restaurants, hotels, and hospitals could not receive the help they needed because of the pauses the government put on the J-1 visa program. As owners and sponsors struggled to get their J-1 students, and the work season beginning, they had to figure out a way they could open for business. 

Jobs were available, but many people decided not to get hired, because unemployment benefits that the government was giving out kept people satisfied and financially steady throughout the pandemic. Throughout COVID, stimulus checks were sent out all over the states.

Ezra Morningstar, a junior at Stephen Decatur High School, said citizens either could not work due to COVID reasons, or became lazy and quit because they were getting paid anyways. He works at Mother’s Cantina on 28th Street in Ocean City.

 Right now, we’re understaffed. We didn’t anticipate it to be this busy. I’ll go bus a table, and then go into the kitchen to run a tray, but all I’ll smell is the bleach I used to clean the tables with, stuck in my mask,” he said.

Working in kitchens or having to fight fires with masks on can be horrific, according to Decatur junior Brock Grosso, who works at the Ocean Pines Yacht Club. 

“Working in the kitchen, as well as being short staffed was a struggle,” Grosso said. “The heat and steam from the ovens just made things worst. Running food during the hot summer intensified the discomfort of wearing my sweaty mask.”