SALISBURY — A bright light gone dark on Salisbury Beach amid the coronavirus pandemic will be reignited when Joe’s Playland opens once again next weekend.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Thursday that he will sign an executive order allowing indoor and outdoor arcades to reopen for business next week, which is welcome news for the owners of the longtime fixture at the beach.
Fred Abdulla is the owner of Joe’s Playland, an arcade that has been in businesses in Salisbury for more than 100 years.
“At least we have a date that we can open on,” Abdulla said Thursday. “Before, it was like, sometime in the future, when they had a cure for COVID-19, which could take months or even years.”
Abdulla said he and his staff will spend the next few days preparing the arcade to reopen by Sept. 18.
“Our ice cream stand has been open and our seafood stand has been open. Those stands were pretty busy this summer but most of our employees are employed in the arcade,” Abdulla said. “Most of our income is derived from there as well. The time that we can open is when we will usually make the least amount of money. But, at least we know we can open.”
Arcades had previously been placed in Phase 3 of the governor’s reopening plan but they were moved back into Phase 4 in early July. Abdulla and his staff had opened Joe’s Playland at that time but had to close soon after.
Abdulla and his wife, Donna, who is also a town selectman, reached out to their state legislators, Rep. Jim Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, and Sen. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, and were soon in touch with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.
Kelcourse said he was “thrilled” to hear of the governor’s decision and is looking forward to celebrating his son Tommy’s ninth birthday at Joe’s Playland later this month.
“This is the best news I have heard all day,” Kelcourse said. “The lieutenant governor called me this morning and I was really excited to hear the news. She told me she had used Donna Abdulla and her expertise in the business for guidance. I think this is really good news, not only for the district, but it is great news for the Abdulla family.”
DiZoglio said the Abdulla family played an important role in Baker’s decision to reopen arcades statewide.
“We are very grateful to the Abdulla family for not only raising this issue to us about their business, but also making the commitment, not only for themselves but other arcades in Massachusetts,” DiZoglio said. “They put all of the safety protocols in place and, from my understanding, the local Board of Health had been over there for a site visit. The administration has recognized that they put all of the necessary safety protocols in place to reopen safely. Now, they can finally reopen and get back to business.”
DiZoglio also said allowing casinos to be open while arcades were shut down made little sense.
“These are our small businesses,” she said. “These are the backbones of our community. They have been struggling for many months and they came to us and made the comparison. They said it didn’t make any sense for these casinos to be open while local businesses like arcades could not.”
Summer days before Labor Day are always when Joe’s Playland makes the majority of its money, according to Abdulla.
“I wish we could have opened in the summer,” he said. “Forty-five other states allowed it but Massachusetts didn’t. I guess they conferred with other states and they figured it wouldn’t be an issue. So, they finally relented and let us open and we’re happy about that.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.