BELMAR, NJ — On five evenings each summer, visitors have come to Belmar to get an up-close glimpse of hundreds of vintage and classic cars on display along a two-block stretch of Main Street.
In fact, Cruise Nights have grown in popularity over the years not only among automobile enthusiasts, but for others who enjoy frequenting the downtown merchants and eateries, and listening to the Doo Wop tunes emanating from nearby Pyanoe Plaza.
Recently, these festivities nearly became a thing of the past when the Belmar Business Partnership (BBP), which funds the event, experienced quite a speed bump when planning this year’s calendar.
Since the pipe bomb scare that occurred in Seaside Park before a charity run last September, Belmar has been among numerous municipalities in the region that have bolstered security measures at community events — and with those efforts have come increased costs.
For the BBP, that meant a substantial rise in permit fees to $3,500 for each night of the event — a cost beyond its budget, said Marty Riccio, vice president of the nonprofit corporation that manages the borough’s Special Improvement District (SID).
But rather than scrapping Cruise Nights entirely, BBP and borough officials hammered out an agreement that paves the way for two events during the months that traditionally have drawn the most attendees, falling this year on Wednesday, July 19 and August 16. Permit fees will total $5,000 — to be paid by the BBP, which is primarily funded through a SID tax assessment on commercial properties in the borough.
“Cruise Nights are good for Belmar and good for business, especially on Main Street,” Riccio said. “Before the BBP started sponsoring them, cruise night was like 15 cars in a back parking lot. Now we have 200 to 300 cars coming into town each event. We’re happy they’ll be back.”