Seaside Heights Stresses Family-Friendly Image [AUDIO]
Seaside Heights was once home to the wild antics of Snooki and The Situation, but the borough is looking to shed that image and become a more family-friendly destination.
Numerous local bar and nightclub owners have already told mayor William Akers and the council that they are on board with closing an hour earlier, at 3 a.m.
The borough also hopes to include more police officers on the boardwalk and in the community, both to prevent crime and act as friendly ambassadors to visitors.
Additionally, Akers said Seaside is planning on hosting more special events that appeal to everyone, such as a concert series on a movable stage.
"We can get acts to come here on a short notice to Seaside Heights, country-western things like that, who want to come and promote their new album," Akers said.
Fifty Class II police officers will be brought in for summer and will act as ambassadors for the borough. They will also assist visitors with directions, parking questions and general information.
"There's nothing worse than when you're coming to a town you're not familiar with and not knowing where to go, where there's a restaurant, or where the meters are in effect," Akers said.
While the borough will be doing everything it can to remake its image, businesses may be challenged to follow suit. The promenade is lined with T-shirt and souvenir shops, many of which feature slogans and images that are far from family-friendly.
Unlike Point Pleasant, where the boardwalk is owned by Jenkinson's Pavilion, or Asbury Park, where developer Madison Marquette has a say in what businesses are allowed on the boardwalk, Seaside Heights has little control over its merchants.
Akers said he has no plans on stifling free speech, but he hopes the borough's efforts will benefit those who cater to a family clientele.
"They look at themselves and they say, 'Jeez, I'm not having that great of a year,' but they look at their neighbor who is doing the right thing and catering to a different crowd and having a good year," Akers said, "I think that is the best way that they learn."
Seaside Heights gained nationwide prominence when it hosted season 1 (and subsequently seasons 3, 5 and 6) of MTV's hit reality show Jersey Shore. The borough received its fair share of criticism for the hard partying and reckless antics of the cast.
Even though Akers doesn't regret Seaside hosting the show, he believes it's time to move forward.
"At the time when the economy was bad, you made some of those decisions," Akers said, "though I hope Seaside Heights is big enough now to stand on its own so it doesn't need to do those kind of things. That would be nice."
He acknowledges his town will have to strike a balance between welcoming families and still catering to those who come there for the nightlife. He said other than closing at 3 a.m., nightlife will remain the same.
If visitors come have a good time and obey the laws, according to Akers, Seaside is still a great place, "but don't make it a negative experience because you chose to do something that is stupid or not the best choice."