By and  on July 6, 2006

NEW YORK — Atlantic City retailers were down on their luck Wednesday.

That's when all 12 of the city's casinos were ordered to close because of a state budget impasse that shut New Jersey government, forcing the state to furlough most employees — including those who supervise casino activities. Without the supervisors, casinos were legally unable to operate, compelling gamblers to cut their vacations (and maybe their losses) short, though stores and restaurants that inhabit the casinos stayed open.

The development, if it persists, could put a damper on what's expected to be a big season for Atlantic City merchants. Retailing has been building up in the city, with such resorts as Caesars Atlantic City and the Borgata Casino Hotel & Spa developing square footage to attract upscale stores. Last week, for example, The Pier at Caesars retail/entertainment complex had its ribbon-cutting, introducing several luxury and designer shops to the area, including Gucci and Betsey Johnson. Many more stores are expected to open at the Pier in the weeks ahead.

However, on Wednesday, several executives and store workers along the Boardwalk and in resorts said traffic was down by more than they would normally expect for the day after the Fourth of July. Some press reports estimated traffic at half what it normally would be.

"It's definitely slowed down, but people are shopping, at least those who haven't left town," said one worker at a designer store, who requested anonymity. "Considering it's the day after the Fourth of July, we expected the day to be slow anyway, but there is some traffic."

"We are open, but we are not busy yet. We don't have the sales. We sold one bag," said Kate Eshchenkova, a clerk at the Barron for Her accessories store, around 3 p.m.

"It's just slow," said one worker at a jewelry store, who also requested anonymity. "Certain people are coming in, I guess because there is nothing else to do. They look at a few items and maybe buy one item. The comps are low because the casino is shut down."

Not everybody despaired. Sam Mankus, supervisor of Carina, a high-end women's store in the Borgata, which is about five minutes from the Boardwalk, described Wednesday as "surprisingly, a pretty good day, like a weekend. A lot of customers were in today. We thought we would really be dead today."

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