VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach Developer Bruce Thompson is opening a new door into high-quality accommodations at the Oceanfront.
However, make no mistake, doors have been closing on Thompson thanks to COVID-19,
“We had 84 weddings canceled. A lot of them have postponed to next spring. Will they actually come next spring? I’m not sure,” Thompson said.
The best view of Thompson’s $150-million Cavalier Marriott resort is from Chopper 10. The Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront is the new hotel, and is across the street from the Cavalier. Thompson and his partners have invested $450 million total, according to Thompson.
Pharrell William’s Something in the Water festival had booked all 305 ocean view rooms at the hotel — but then the festival was canceled due to COVID-19, and so were the rooms. Thompson lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I don’t know how much money I’m going to lose until I open, and that’s what worries me because I don’t know what the state is going to allow me to do, nor do I know what customers feel like doing,” Thompson said.
As 10 On Your Side toured the new resort with Thompson, we asked how he feels one week before his hopeful opening.
“I’m stuck. I’m stuck. It’s hard. It’s hard,” he said.
We also asked him about Gov. Ralph Northam’s response to Thompson’s pleas for help.
“I have spoken to him numerous times … he did nothing … but he is a doctor and I understand where he is coming from,” Thompson said.
Thompson sits on the governor’s COVID-19 Business Task Force, and Thompson says his advice has not been followed.
“There were conversations. We have a number of seats. We have social distancing, we have social distancing tables, but there was never a conversation where you just have outside dining. Outside dining doesn’t help me at all… That was a big surprise,” he said.
Another example: Thompson was left with the impression restaurants would fully reopen Friday, but the governor went a different direction. The governor’s Executive Order 62 allows personal grooming by appointment, restaurants to open for outside dining at 50-percent capacity, and worship services at 50-percent capacity.
Northam said he’s gauging reopening by several metrics, including:
- Percent of positive cases to total cases (which has mostly been trending down for more than two weeks)
- Increased testing numbers per day (VDH data shows about 6,500 people are being tested daily, which some experts say is still too low to reopen May 15)
- Downward trend in hospitalizations (hospitalizations have been up and down, but mostly steady over the last two weeks)
- Hospital capacity, personal protective equipment needed to handle surge in cases (no hospital has reported difficulty in getting PPE in nearly two weeks)
“The governor approved outside dining only, so what does that mean? It looks like a rainy day, so do I then send home all the employees?” he asked.
Thompson said he was “shocked actually” about not re-opening the beaches to sunbathing.
“Look, the linchpin to tourism and the economy is the beach,” Thompson said, adding he thinks it’s nonsensical that you can do everything at the beach except sit and get a tan.
“I don’t understand. I can take a fishing pole and sit on the beach provided a social distance with someone else, but I can’t sit on the beach and watch my grandchildren surf and do what they are allowed to do? It doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Thompson thinks the hotel and restaurant industry can honor social distancing if given the opportunity to do it.
“We need a little more empathy. We need a little more understanding that we can ourselves regulate this. We can manage it or we can let our guests make their choices that they are entitled to make,” he said.
We asked Thompson to describe the “new normal” in the tourism industry. He said it is social distancing, and that is now part of the new public psyche.
“And I believe as we open, and people through social media get out the word-of-mouth, they will communicate that they felt safe in our environment … and we have to create that in order to be successful, and we can build upon that.”
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