A big "Summer Employment Opportunities" sign fills the front window at Mike's Seafood in Sea Isle City.


Attracting customers to their businesses is just half the challenge for Sea Isle City’s bars, restaurants, hotels and retail shops during the pivotal summer tourism season.

They also need workers – lots of workers – including chefs, bartenders, dishwashers, wait staff, salespeople, housekeepers and myriad other seasonal employees.

“Everybody,” Christopher Glancey, the owner of the Shorebreak Resorts hotel and motel properties in Sea Isle and Ocean City, said of the types of workers he is looking to hire. “That’s just the way the hospitality business works.”

Glancey said the most difficult time for finding seasonal workers was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 – especially in recruiting foreign students carrying J-1 visas that allow them to live and work in the United States during the summer.

The stringent COVID-related travel restrictions on foreign students have been eased since 2020 and 2021, but that doesn’t mean the difficulties of hiring international and U.S. workers have disappeared, Glancey pointed out.

“It’s always an ongoing struggle. It was very bad during COVID. It’s still very difficult finding staff,” Glancey said.

Over the years, shifting trends in the vacation market have caused the summer labor pool to shrink, he said.

Groups of college students would often rent an entire house for the summer in years past. They would work in summer jobs for tuition money while sharing the “group homes.”

But with Sea Isle’s housing market becoming increasingly upscale, the group homes have largely disappeared – and so have many of the college students that represent a major segment of the summer workers, Glancey explained.

“They’re gone. Those rentals don’t exist anymore,” he said. “You just don’t have a large worker base.”

Now, Sea Isle businesses depend in large part on teenagers whose parents own vacation homes, Glancey said. Families are often spending their entire summer on vacation at the shore, allowing their teenage children to pick up some extra money working at local shops and restaurants.

Christopher Glancey, owner of Shorebreak Resorts, is looking for a range of summer employees to staff his hotel and motel properties.

New Jersey has been raising the minimum wage in recent years and for 2024 it is $15.13 per hour. It is not uncommon for businesses to offer summer workers higher pay than minimum wage in the competition for employees.

“Everybody is trying to steal each other’s employees,” said Mike Monichetti, owner of Mike’s Seafood & Dock Restaurant in Sea Isle’s historic Fish Alley neighborhood.

Monichetti hires up to 75 seasonal workers for the summer. Finding four experienced chefs is a top priority of his this summer. He lost four of his chefs last year and is looking to replace them to bring his full number of chefs up to eight.

“I have eight very, very good cooks. I lost four of them. I lost four of the best guys you could possibly want,” he said, noting that three of them moved on to new jobs and the fourth passed away.

Monichetti said some of his seasonal workers started at Mike’s Seafood when they were college students and continue to return summer after summer, including some who are now schoolteachers.

“We have some very, very good people with us. We are blessed. That’s one of the reasons Mike’s Seafood is so successful. It’s the quality of the people who work for us.”

Underscoring the importance of finding qualified summer workers, Monichetti has placed a big sign in the front window of Mike’s Seafood with the words, “Summer Employment Opportunities.”

Monichetti, meanwhile, doesn’t stop his search for summer workers in the United States. He has tapped European countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey and the Czech Republic for J-1 students who will work through the summer and stay as late as Oct. 1.

As an extra incentive, he supplies foreign workers with housing directly across the street from his Park Road restaurant.

“They’re just a great bunch of kids. Their work ethic is incredible,” he said of the foreign students.

A “Now Hiring” sign at the Pirate Island mini golf course in Sea Isle advertises a pay rate of $16.50 per hour.

At the same time local businesses are looking to recruit summer employees, the city of Sea Isle is also hiring seasonal workers ranging from lifeguards to police officers to Public Works personnel to recreation staff.

City spokeswoman Katherine Custer said Sea Isle’s Recreation Office is doing pretty well in efforts to find summer workers.

“We’ve been very pleased with the amount of recreation applications. In fact, we’re in very good shape with the recreation staff. For the most part, we are at full staff,” Custer said.

In the case of lifeguards, most of them are usually hired closer to the summer season following tryouts by the Sea Isle City Beach Patrol, she noted.

Sea Isle is paying minimum wage and up for summer workers, with returning employees rewarded for their experience, Custer pointed out.

One of the biggest challenges for Sea Isle is to keep the seasonal employees throughout the entire summer. College students, for instance, often leave for school or sports programs before the traditional end of the summer season on Labor Day weekend. Some of them agree to work only up until Aug. 15, Custer said.