Bait shop stays open, but 2 AC casinos close

Posted: September 03, 2014

ATLANTIC CITY - A certain circle of life keeps One Stop Bait & Tackle here open, from tiny worms and minnows to striped bass and bluefish to eager anglers. It's common sense, owner Noel Feliciano said, as he plopped bags of bloodworms onto the counter yesterday.

And that's why the nearby Revel Casino Hotel, rising up like a shark fin along the Boardwalk, was a failure, he said - a gleaming, $2.4 billion lure thrown out haphazardly to attract gamblers to a city already full of baited hooks.

"I'm born and raised here and I can tell you this is going to affect every single one of us," Feliciano, 43, said of Revel's closing, as he worked inside his store on Atlantic Avenue near Metropolitan. "Everything has an effect, and something this big, this huge, shutting down will cycle down to everyone in this town."

It was hard to tell that Labor Day was Revel's last gasp, as crowds of young, bikini-clad women and men with sleeveless shirts lined up to enter its HQ Beach Club. Inside, it still seemed so new, all the neon and glass and expensive art, a casino built for a future that Atlantic City may never see.

Revel, in its second bankruptcy in two years, closed its hotel at 11 a.m. yesterday and will close its casino at 6 this morning.

"I hate that it's closing," said Kaitlyn Avila, of Marlboro, on her way to the club with a friend about 2 p.m. "It's always crowded, but it's humongous."

A block away, signs were posted on the Showboat Casino Hotel informing people that the Atlantic City mainstay of nearly three decades was officially closed as of Sunday. A makeshift memorial of candles, the kind that often accompany murder scenes, was placed by the door of a bar there. When Trump Plaza closes Sept. 16, it will bring the total to 7,500 casino employees out of jobs.

But elsewhere up and down the Jersey Shore yesterday, the consensus was that it was a good season for tourism: Rentals and beach-tag fees were up, local officials said, and the weather was nearly perfect all summer. North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello said that business was up 15 percent this summer.

"The key was warm weather in June," said Scott Wahl, a spokesman for Avalon, on the shore in Cape May County.

Avalon was also saying goodbye to a smaller, symbolic business - the 1,400-square-foot Paper Peddler, which has been around since 1968.

Craig Cunningham, 58, had taken over the business from his mother, who opened the store because "she read so many books she figured it would be cheaper to open a store," he said.

They sold more than 200 magazines, best-sellers and local authors, and just about every major newspaper available on the East Coast. It's where Joe Paterno, who had a summer home in Avalon, used to buy his Inquirer and classics, and where sand-covered dogs were always welcome.

But Cunningham said that he's become a victim of how the masses now consume their media.

"It used to be a daily business and now it's mostly just weekends," he said.

Cunningham said that he'd like to open a hot-dog cart by the beach next summer, just for the interaction he's cherished so much.

Meanwhile yesterday, news vans parked here along the edge of the Boardwalk, down by Revel and Showboat, and people speaking on behalf of several other casinos weren't keen on the funereal atmosphere. Several did not return requests for comment, and one declined altogether.

Jeff Guaracino, chief strategy officer for the Atlantic City Alliance, said that this city still has eight "thriving" casinos and that hotels had high occupancy rates all summer. Unlike the rest of the Jersey Shore from Cape May to Sandy Hook, Labor Day doesn't signal the end of the season for Atlantic City, he noted. All fall and winter, the city has comedy shows, concerts and conventions.

Bill Terrigino, 69, a South Philly native whose vine-covered and pirate-themed house sits in the shadow of Revel, said he feels as if he's losing 3,000 neighbors with the casino's closing. He lost his catering job when the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel closed, in January.

"It's sad, downright sad," he said, sipping on an espresso in his yard.

On Twitter: @JasonNark

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