Pandemic sidelines Peabody’s for the kick-off of tourist season


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — When Peabody’s Nightclub celebrated its first Memorial Day weekend in 1967, hits from the Monkees, the Doors and Frankie Valli filled the air as revelers kicked off the start of the summer tourist season.

Now, 53 years later and for the first time, the doors of Peabody’s will be closed for the kickoff.

COVID-19 is to blame. The beach will reopen this weekend for limited use, but nightclubs such as the iconic Peabody’s will remain shuttered.

Owner Brandon Ramsey served the last pre-pandemic patrons around mid-March. The club has not made a dime since then. Forty employees have been laid off and many of them are now collecting unemployment benefits.

“It’s painful, you just want to cry a little bit. It hurt last weekend even when you see all these people there on the beach. We can’t open, that’s not easy,” said Ramsey.

Restaurants, hair salons, and other businesses have been told when and how to reopen but the night club scene across the state is still waiting for instructions from the governor. One thing is perfectly clear: Social distancing was not on the menu when the music stopped at Peabody’s back in March. In a review of images on the club’s social media pages, revelers — right side up and upside down — are partying inches from each other with the likes of world-famous disk jockey Diplo and others.

“It’s a pretty wild place but we have a good time,” said Ramsey.

(Photo courtesy: Brandon Ramsey)

Ramsey is preparing for a possible reopening in two weeks with 50 revelers or less. The 10,000-square-foot building at 21st Street and Pacific Avenue is licensed to hold 650 patrons. The new occupancy numbers strike a discordant tone as the strict safety rules could force him to reinvent Peabody’s.

“We have some plans in there that we can open to some good social distancing in there– we are going to do the best that we can,” he said.

Peabody’s is landlocked with no room to expand for outdoor entertainment. Ramsey says along the strip, landlords have been kind to clubs and at this point, Peabody’s is not at risk of closing.

Asked about his wildly popular swimsuit competitions, Ramsey is hopeful the feature will survive the pandemic.

“We pray for it — everybody loves it — it’s legendary at Peabody’s.

Visit Peabody’s website for more information.

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