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Businesses hope Collier and Naples public beaches will reopen completely

Many of us will head to the beach this weekend, but if you’re heading out to a Collier County beach, you’ll encounter some rules that you won’t elsewhere.

Now, some beach businesses are pleading with Naples and the county to reopen beaches all the way.

Saturday and Sunday, beachgoers won’t be allowed on the sand between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. and businesses say those strict rules hurt them big time.

“We’ve applied for every bit of help there and we got denied,” Kellen Gianello said.

Now the only help Gianello believes can save her 20-year-old family business from closing is lifting beach restrictions in Collier County.

“We are hardworking people,” Gianello said. “I mean, we love what we do.”

But lately, paddleboards at her family business in Naples sit unused and untouched.

”Most people that rent boards from us come over the weekend, and we’re not allowed on the beach on the weekend,” Gianello said.

On weekends, people are limited from 7 to 11 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to sunset on beaches such as Vanderbilt Beach. Businesses that have waited to open are finally seeing customers.

”As soon as they opened up, we noticed a difference,” said Todd Brooks, the owner of Brooks Burgers in Naples. “We’re getting small rushes before and after when people go to the beach.”

After opening day on the beach got too busy and problems with social distancing had Collier leaders limit hours on county beach weekends, some like Bob Herrick prefer to wear a mask.

“It’s still out there,” Herrick said, but he says it’s about time to lift the rules.

”People are separating themselves on the beaches pretty well and I was pleased to see that,” Herrick said.

Collier commissioners vote on Tuesday to decide if they’ll go back to full beach hours on weekends for county beaches. No word from the City of Naples if they’ll make a move on lifting their beach restrictions next week, but the beaches will be something both Marco Island and Naples City Council will discuss.

Some business owners just hope things get back to normal.

“July is huge for us,” Gianello said. “We rent boards for weeks on end; we rent boards daily; and I don’t know what to tell them,” said. “Because, oh, God, if they don’t open the beaches by July, we’re done.”

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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