Sharp rise in tourism fee catches Belmar small businesses off guard

Small business owners in Belmar say they were caught completely off guard after receiving a notice from Belmar officials that the town tourism fee was increased from $100 to as much as $1,000. 
“A tourism fee in a small community that really doesn’t affect our income during the summertime is affecting us in our pockets,” says Christine Seaman, with Belmar Flower Alley.
Rasheed Simmons, owner of Simply Southern restaurant, says the increase is the last thing he needs as he strives to stay afloat during the pandemic. 
“It’s hard for these small businesses to survive especially during the slow season being here in a beach town,” says Rasheed Simmons, owner of Simply Southern restaurant.  
Belmar Mayor Mark Walsifer says, “Belmar has changed the way tourism fees for businesses are determined while the Special Improvement District (SID) assessments have been removed. The tourism fee did not take into account the size of the business, the type of business, whether it relied on tourism or whether it was a professional office or the like. It is costly to run special events such as the Seafood Festival, Feast of San Gennaro, Friday night concerts in Pyanoe Plaza, concerts in Taylor Pavilion, Movies on the Beach, to name a few. For those businesses that benefit from them, it is worth the expense of their tourism fee.”
Simmons wound up calling the town and did get his fee reduced. 
“Any restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol will be at $500, which is still expensive. A restaurant that’s serving alcohol will be at $1,000,” says Simmons.
Seaman says she’ll try to get her fee reduced as well, but right now is too busy with Valentine’s Day sales.