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A booming weekend for Fire Island

The streets of Fire Island are bustling as

The streets of Fire Island are bustling as tourist season begins. (July 4, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

The long July Fourth holiday and a run of hot, sunny days made for a banner weekend for Fire Island businesses, restaurant and hotel owners said Sunday, giving them high hopes for a healthy season after superstorm Sandy's devastation. "We were completely sold out," said Laura Mercogliano, who with her husband owns the Palms Hotel chain and CJ's bar and restaurant in Ocean Beach. "We're sold out today, we've been sold out since Wednesday."

Since spring, village, town and county officials have been pumping up Fire Island's post-Sandy comeback staging news conferences on the barrier island and showcasing its recovery with the message that "Fire Island is open for business."Last week, Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine used Fire Island Pines to offer the same message before the holiday weekend.

Before July Fourth and the spate of warm days, the summer season was off to a slow start, many business owners said, largely because the weather was cold and wet.Memorial Day, which was sunny but windy and chilly on the beach, was quieter than usual.

"Definitely I think people are coming out now because of the weather," said Chris Greco, manager of Le Dock restaurant in Fair Harbor."I think it was kind of a perfect storm of good luck, good weather and good timing of when the holidays fell."

Le Dock plans to beef up its staff for the rest of the summer, he said.

The boom in business was welcome in Ocean Bay Park, where Flynn's restaurant owner Tim Flynn praised a marketing effort by Fire Island business owners, called Revive FI, for bringing awareness to the beach's recovery. Owners like Flynn worked against the clock all winter to repair what was sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage so they'd be ready for tourist season.

"All the businesses here are bending over backward to make it accessible," Flynn said.

Getting the word out that Long Island's beaches are back has been a success in other Sandy-devastated areas, too. Long Beach chief of lifeguards Paul Gillespie said this July Fourth weekend was the busiest he's seen in 45 years of watching over the beach.

"You would not believe the comeback we have made," Gillespie said. "It's just tremendous."

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