Public beaches in Old Lyme will be closed indefinitely starting Saturday. The decision was made by the Board of Selectmen earlier this week.
First Selectman Timothy Griswold said the town made the decision after seeing the warm temperatures forecast for this weekend. He said, using history as a guide, large groups of people tend to flock to Sound View beaches and other town beaches when the weather gets nice, making social distancing nearly impossible.
"If we suddenly had 4- or 500 people coming down, the genie would be out of the bottle," said Griswold. "We really would not be able to properly regulate things."
The town has placed electronic message boards along the main roads that lead to the beaches, reminding people that beaches are closed. Griswold said that police officers and rangers will be at Sound View this weekend to inform visitors that the beaches are closed.
According to a press release from the Town of Old Lyme, the town is not regulating the activities of the private beach associations, but they are urging private owners to be vigilant and ensure social distancing procedures are followed.
Restaurants along the beaches are still open. The general manager of Kokomo's at Sound View said that a lot of their business comes from the foot traffic of people visiting the beach.
"I was concerned about the reduction of revenue for us," said Drew McLachlan, general manager of Kokomo's.
While the public beach next door to Kokomo's is closed, the restaurant does have a private beach in its backyard. This weekend, McLachlan said, they are keeping their beach open. They will set up beach chairs, spread out six feet apart, and let people sit in a chair for $20 a visit. The $20 can then be used as a credit for a takeout meal from the restaurant.
"We are hoping to make up for the lost revenue with that," said McLachlan.
Beaches in neighboring towns and state beaches are still open, just encouraging normal social distancing practices.
Griswold said that he hopes the closure will not last long.
"We regret having to do this, but we look forward to the time when we can return to normal," said Griswold.