The Surge (of Tourists) Back to the new normal

Visitors return to Carmel Beach | Photo by Joe Livernois


By Joe Livernois

Shelter-in-place warnings in Monterey County didn’t keep the out-of-towners from jamming beaches and familiar tourist hotspots in Monterey County this weekend. In fact, it looked like a typical Memorial Day weekend crowd, with a few exceptions.

The masks, for one thing. That’s something we never saw around these parts until recently. About half the visitors wore their masks on the beaches and on Fisherman’s Wharf. But then, they had to if they expected to be served their chowder bowls at Old Fisherman’s Grotto on the wharf or to purchase their sugar fix by the pound at Candy Row, one of the ubiquitous candy stores around town. (Get it? Candy Row, on Cannery Row? It’s just a jawbreaker’s toss from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.)

Also this weekend, some of the familiar haunts were closed and others were wide open. The aquarium is still closed, standing like a forlorn monument to better times. Most the hotels are limited in who they can rent rooms, so they were  mostly empty, which means that most the visitors were staying with friends or relatives, or tripping on the Peninsula for the day before driving home. Fisherman’s Wharf is open again; the city opened up the parking lot before the weekend. Restaurants all over the peninsula were partially open. The signs read: “For Take Out Only.” But if there happens to be tables outdoors, who’s going to stop people from eating on them? People do what people do.

But here’s something weird: Over in Carmel, the defiant owner of The Tuck Box diner opted to hang a “For Take Out Only” sign on his front door Sunday rather than tempting fate by opening his dining hall. He’s been warned and he’s been cited by all the proper authorities, but he vowed that he’d keep the dining room open even if the lawmen sent their SWAT team. He felt the need to defend freedom against the forces of science and the notion of empathy and fair trade with neighboring restaurants that follow the law. But a judge issued a temporary restraining order barring him from keeping the dining room open on Friday. And so he shut off the dining room.

Down in Big Sur, it was business as usual, with visitors clogging the two-lane highway and squeezing their vehicles into every available turnout. Folks crawled all over one another to get that unique photograph of Bixby Creek Bridge. So, yes, Big Sur is back to normal.

Martha Diehl, special to Voices of Monterey Bay | Holiday traffic in Big Sur.

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Joe Livernois

About Joe Livernois

Joe Livernois has been a reporter, editor and columnist in Monterey County for 35 years.

4 thoughts on “The Surge (of Tourists) Back to the new normal

  1. Not at all. When people see an empty table outdoors on a beautiful day and they’ve got a box full of food, they’re gonna use it. That’s people doing what they do.

  2. Thx for covering this especially with the pictures.
    As cases begin to rise into double digits those of us going by the facts should be watching the location of the new cases vs what the county wants us to see by burning those details that were added only after public outcry.
    Inevitably the comments will go to the “numbers are increasing due to more testing” but daily media reports should not be complicit & facilitate the lack of transparency by not taking the extra steps the average person will not to find the zip code info.

    Much of how this mess has been handled locally & at state mirrors the very criticism directed at the White House from some of these very electeds.

  3. The city of 160,000 is often overlooked by people who come to Monterey County to visit Cannery Row and the aquarium, the pastoral Carmel Valley and rugged, world-famous Big Sur. It s widely known as the childhood home of and inspiration to Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck, as the source of most of the nation s lettuce and leafy greens, and as a city long plagued by issues related to poverty.

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