Dauphin County business owners are preparing to move to the yellow phase Friday as popular tourist destinations like Hersheypark and Hershey Gardens stay closed as leaders wait for the county to move to green.
Hersheypark spokesperson, Quinn Bryner, told FOX by email that the park continues to plan and implement a variety of new safety initiatives as recommended by government agencies and industry organizations that address coronavirus prevention in public places. However, Bryner added it is premature to discuss an opening date as "we understand it would require Dauphin County going green to reopen."
The yellow phase will allow multiple businesses to reopen in the county. Meantime, Derry Township leaders have been tracking the impact of not only the business closures, but also the area's major tourist destinations being shut down.
"Real Estate Taxes and Act 511 Taxes comprise 85% of the Township’s total revenues. COVID-19 mitigation efforts will have a significant impact on our Act 511 Taxes, but how widespread? The months of June, July and August will be very telling for the Township," said Christopher Christman, Derry Township manager to FOX43 by email. "EIT, LST, Amusement tax and Parking tax will all be impacted by the shutdown. The FY2020 budget includes a total of $2.3 million of Amusement and Parking Tax revenue, which has been impacted by Hersheypark’s inability to open during the pandemic."
Christman said revenues in Derry Township are beginning to show weakness due to the mitigation efforts to control COVID-19, adding, "through the end of April, Act 511 taxes are down approximately 32% from where they were one year ago - all of this is attributable to the COVID-19 virus. I cannot speculate as to when the park might open, but I can say with certainty, the revenue loss thus far this year will not be made up before the end of the fiscal year requiring the Township to find ways to close the revenue gap."
Hershey Gardens is also closed until Dauphin County goes green.
"Botanical Gardens are specifically listed as being able to open in the green phase," sad Amy Zeigler, senior director of Hershey Gardens. Zeigler added museums as well open under the green phase so 'The Hershey Story' will also not open Friday. Both the Gardens and the museum are managed by The M.S. Hershey Foundation.
When both Hershey Gardens and 'The Hershey Story' open, Zeigler said both locations will have additional safety measures that include a requirement for masks and a touch-less ticket scanning system.
"We will have timed tickets so everyone will have to purchase a ticket online," said Zeigler. Inside Hershey Gardens, new signs are also on the floor to promote social distancing and plexiglass has been added to the cash registers.
"We'll have people specifically designated to go around and clean high touch surfaces throughout the day," said Zeigler. The butterfly atrium will also not be open.
"The only part of the gardens that we open is the outside, but it's 23 acres as you can see of really fantastic beautiful space," said Zeigler.
Normally, Zeigler said the Hershey Gardens would see close to 1,000 people per day on the weekends.
"Municipalities across the Commonwealth are all dealing with similar revenue issues in varying degrees, but one thing is for certain that we will all have to make tough choices to close our budget shortfalls," said Christman.
Meantime Friday, many business owners were busy inside their shops preparing to open their doors once again as Dauphin moves to the 'yellow phase' Friday.
"I'm so excited to see people in person and having them shop almost like normal again," said Emily Drobnock, of Knock Knock Boutique, who also owns Bella Sera on Chocolate Avenue.
Drobonock said both shops are planning extra safety precautions under 'yellow' by allowing only 3 customers in at a time.
When asked if she worries about the decrease in foot traffic due to the shutdown of tourist destinations, Drobonock said "obviously tourists are great and we love seeing them. But, the people who we are really craving to see are our local supporters."