Sen. Kaine speaks with Virginia Beach hospitality industry about pandemic impact


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The Coronavirus pandemic has made things difficult for business owners everywhere, but the hospitality and tourism industry has been hit especially hard.

On Friday, Sen. Tim Kaine met virtually with Virginia Beach business owners who told him their struggle is far from over. They also said they need more help to make it through the rest of the season.

Some of the stories shared from business owners at the Oceanfront and nearby include a restaurant owner laying off nearly the entire staff. A hotel owner said 90% of hotel reservations for the summer season have been canceled.

“Every single business is a harbor full of sinking ships and the only way they stop sinking is to reopen,” said Bob Pizzini, with the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

This is usually the busiest time of year in Virginia Beach. We’re told 70% of business revenues are made from Spring to early Fall.

Right now, they’re trying to stay afloat.

“Even if summer did come at full rate, full occupancy was back to normal starting this weekend, it would still be quite a hurt,” said Russell Lyons, president of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association.

Kaine said he knows how critical the tourism industry is to Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads.

He said Congress is making improvements to the Paycheck Protection Program.

“We need to adjust the percentage of the PPP dollars that have to be spent on payroll versus non-payroll expenses,” Kaine said. “We want to make these dollars as useful as they can be for businesses.”

Business owners also stressed the need for aid specifically for the industry.

“We want to survive this and we want to remain a vital part of the community here,” said BJ Baumann, president of the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association.

Kaine said one advantage for the Hampton Roads area is it’s a tourism destination that most people can drive to. He hopes that alone will encourage visitors. 

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