By Len Ramirez

SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) — The summer season in Santa Cruz is ending much the way it began, with closed beaches.

For the coming holiday weekend, beaches will be closed except for certain hours for exercise to limit the spread of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Many Bay Area Beaches Shut Down For Labor Day Weekend

“I like to go to the boardwalk and lay out on the beaches so it feels like they’re trying to keep the tourists away,” said Santa Cruz resident Katherine Evans.

Santa Cruz police will be patrolling in special beach vehicles looking
for violators. The closure is another blow to the local tourism industry coming as it does on the last big holiday weekend of summer.

The season has been marked not just by the pandemic, but by the devastating CZU Complex fires that filed the air with smoke and ash.

“It’s been weird, unpredictable. We’re just hoping it’s over soon,” said Capitola shopkeeper Daun Wallace about the summer season.

She says 2020 will be a down year for her store financially because she had to close for weeks because of COVID and the fires.

A handful of other businesses, including the Paradise Beach Grill in Capitola, have had to close permanently.

“In a very untraditional town, this is a very untraditional tourism season,” said Christina Glynn, Communications Director for Visit Santa Cruz County.

Glynn said the Santa Cruz tourism industry was just coming off its best years ever, topping more than a billion dollars in 2018 and 2019.

Now, retail and restaurants are just scraping by.

“We have yet to see what the numbers will look like for 2020,” Glynn said.

Some businesses are pulling back, but also pivoting and showing resiliency.
Restaurants and hotels are now serving the influx of evacuees, fire and support personnel.

And the O’Neill Surf Shop cancelled an end of season sale to give away summer clearance clothing to Santa Cruz families who lost everything in the fires.

“It’s just a natural progression to make sure we’re giving back as much as we’re getting from everyone here,” said O’Neill Store manager Elfin Saffer.