IF THIS were any year other than a plague year, the issue you hold in your hands would be our annual Best of Savannah issue, well over 100 pages of it.
You’d be reading about who won Best New Bar, or Best Overall Restaurant, Best Local Theatre Production, and many other categories of the literally hundreds that are voted on each year by our readers.
There would have been a big winner’s party at the Morris Center this past Tuesday night to celebrate. Always a night to remember.
While we did count all your votes this year, we of course are opting to postpone the big issue as well as the big party for a later date, when we can all meet again in person to have the usual grand time.
You didn’t waste your time voting (though you probably had more time on your hands to do so). But you will have to wait a bit longer.
The vast majority of categories in the Best of Savannah Readers Poll are businesses and organizations dramatically impacted by pandemic shutdowns, whether eating establishments or bars or bands or performing arts groups.
But you wouldn’t know it by this past weekend on Tybee Island, where it wasn’t only business as usual, it was business as usual and then some.
By Friday Tybee had already passed the 10,000 vehicle count entering the island.
By Saturday afternoon a Tybee City Council member posted that “We are seeing July 4th level traffic today.”
Indeed, the traffic was backed up all the way to Wilmington Island, the jam aided and abetted as it frequently is by several accidents.
By later on that Saturday, Tybee had literally filled up. There was no more room to park, even if you were eager to pay the $3.50 an hour they now charge.
The beaches, of course, were packed, wall-to-wall people.
Tybee wasn’t the only place bustling. Broughton Street and much of downtown Savannah was buzzing with activity all day and night Saturday.
All this during a pandemic, when so many other concerns are either closed or have drastically reduced their hours and service.
It’s surreal that so much is going on, while so much isn’t going on.
Much of the increasingly rancorous debate over whether or not to “reopen” the economy is effectively moot, for better or worse. It’s happening way too soon for some, much too late in the opinion of others, but either way it’s happening.
The inequities are glaringly obvious. Businesses willing to push boundaries of safe conduct are reaping at least short-term benefits by pulling in people who for one reason or another are simply not scared of COVID-19, or who have simply had enough of the lockdown, or both.
Gov. Kemp has allowed restaurants to ramp up operations, while continuing to keep standalone bars that don’t serve food shuttered.
It must be especially frustrating to be a local bar owner and see video of all the people on the beach this past weekend with their coolers packed full of beer, and all the restaurant bars shoulder-to-shoulder with virtually no social distancing, while their own bars have to stay closed at least for the rest of the month as a sop to Bible Belt mores.
Visit Savannah, which has the job of encouraging and helping manage tourism into the area, has had a plan in place for weeks already to roll out a multi-phase campaign advertising Savannah as back open for business.
One phase, “Rediscover Our City,” is to get locals reacquainted with the idea of getting out and about after two months of lockdown.
Events are moving so rapidly, however, that even that ad campaign could possibly be irrelevant – since apparently not much advertising is needed to convince people.
Still, Visit Savannah indicates that it will spend a little over $1 million in total on tourism marketing through summer 2020.
They are using data that indicates that the average round trip for vacationing Americans anticipated this year will be a 539 mile round trip, which amounts to roughly a four-hour drive radius.
According to data from Destination Analysts, 40 percent of Americans anticipate a beach trip in vacation plans – which would seem to guarantee more overflow crowds on Tybee in the near future, barring another major outbreak of COVID-19.
Over the next several months, we will find out where the true priorities lie, for visitors as well as locals, as we see who will be able to thrive and survive. cs