By John Burton
RED BANK – Despite the lack of fireworks this July 3, which traditionally brought large crowds to the borough, business for some local establishments that formerly benefited from the annual event, wasn’t so bad.
The annual fireworks display, long touted as the largest in the state, usually meant large crowds of people — often hungry and thirsty people — wandered through much of the downtown until the display began around 9 p.m. But the organizing committee decided in February not to move forward with this year’s plans for a number of reasons.
Chris Masi, general manager of the Downtown bar and restaurant, said the 10 West Front St. establishment “had a successful July 3.”
July 3 had been one of that night spot’s busiest of the year, second only to Thanksgiving Eve, according to Masi. “The [lack of] fireworks, I would say only hurt us as far as dinner service,” with that portion of the business falling off. On the other hand, he said, “Our night life was as strong as a weekend.
“We definitely took a hit but overall I would say it was a successful night,” he said. “Surprising.”
The fireworks had brought big business at Spirits Unlimited liquor store, 56 Newman Springs Road, in the past. This year, store manager John Watts acknowledged, “I was even.” The difference? “No big parties,” in the area as there have been in past years, he said.
That day is usually one of his business’ busiest of the year and, despite some complaints from customers about the lack of a fireworks show, he considered the business he got was “pretty good.
“They’re going to party no matter what,” he observed.
Nancy Adams, executive director of Red Bank RiverCenter, which manages the borough’s commercial special improvement district, said she heard some complaints about no fireworks, but there were people who had not heard about the cancelation who still came and may have shopped and dined.
“I heard the restaurants and bars did good business,” which could be also be attributed to it being the night before a major holiday, she said.
“Nights before holidays are always beneficial,” Masi observed.
Danny Murphy, who owns and operates Danny’s Grill and Wine Bar on Bridge Avenue and was a member on the KaBoom committee that organized the annual fireworks display, said, “It was dead in town. It was very depressing.” But, he added, “I actually did very well on Tuesday night because, really there was nothing else to do.”
One business that suffered what its owner said was a significant loss of business was LaRosa’s Bakery on Newman Springs Road in Shrewsbury.
Sal LaRosa, who has been running the bakery for 30 years, said this July 3 “was doomsday in Red Bank instead of boomsday in Red Bank.”
He estimated his business was down by about 75 percent that day.
Along with Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, “One of the big holidays for me is July 3,” LaRosa said.
LaRosa is one of the original members of the KaBoom! Fireworks on the Navesink committee, which organized and raised funds for the annual display. He said the demise of the event was sad. He contended that the mayor and council should have stepped in and taken over the event, even on a smaller scale. “It was a real shame,” he said.
As for a scaled back event, Murphy agreed. “Keep it a little smaller,” and a little less expensive, he said.
The Kaboom committee cited the cost, the difficulty of raising money and the need for an increasingly larger contingent of police from the borough and surrounding communities to maintain security, as the major reasons for canceling this year’s event.
The cost of the annual event, which had been the borough’s largest, ran upward of $300,000, and
was funded through private contributions and some corporate sponsorship.