Upcoming return of Portsmouth Pavilion proves it’s a vital venue for area business


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Without live concerts for more than three years now, the Atlantic Union Bank Pavilion in Portsmouth is getting ready to raise the curtain once again in just two weeks. Businesses in the city’s Olde Towne district couldn’t be happier.

In May 2018, engineers discovered a ten-foot crack in the main mast support for the pavilion’s canopy. That closed the venue for the rest of that year and all of 2019. The pandemic followed last summer, leaving the site dark once again.

It was a one-two punch that landed on both the public and private sectors.

“Without it, it really kind of hurt us in terms of tourism,” said Portsmouth Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Mark Palamarchuck.

“Not having the pavilion here has hurt business,” said Baron’s Pub owner Tyler McMillen.

“We had significant repairs to the main mast. It was completely replaced and the canopy tent as well,” Palamarchuck said.

And then last year, COVID-19 kept the turnstiles frozen for yet another year.

“A lot of people have been stuck inside for so long and they’re really looking for something to do outdoors. People are buying tickets left and right,” he said.

Those people with concert tickets will be running bar and restaurant tabs on High Street.

“We all miss having shows down here,” said Allie Zinsner, manager of Griff’s Restaurant. “It brings a lot of business.”

Zinsner and McMillen say concert-goers mean more dinners sold before the shows, and more drinks sold afterward when people congregate on High Street.

The city used the downtime to do more than repair the structure and replace the roof. All of the seating and the stage are new, and the lighting and landscaping have been upgraded at the 20-year-old venue that seats about 6,500.

“It’s one of my favorite places in Hampton Roads to go for a show. Very intimate,” Zinsner said.

Five concert dates are confirmed, opening with Black Jacket Symphony Thursday, July 1. Harry Connick Jr. and Earth Wind and Fire are also coming to Portsmouth.

In addition to the confirmed schedule, the city says other shows are likely.

“It’s a Portsmouth icon,” Palamarchuck said. “People have been coming here for years to see shows. It’s a great venue along the water.”

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