Beach hotels, restaurants feeling impact of coronavirus

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — With the cancellation of popular events — and tourists afraid to travel during a national emergency — hotels and restaurants at the Oceanfront are feeling the impact of the coronavirus.

“Thursday was really the day when the bottom fell out,” said Russell Lyons, president of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association.

That’s when the cancellations started to become common. The Grand National Championship by the Sea, national finals for cheer and dance, would have filled the Virginia Beach Convention Center, and filled rooms on Atlantic Avenue.

Then, organizers of the Shamrock marathon canceled the St. Patrick’s Day tradition, another blow to Oceanfront merchants and hoteliers.

But the coronavirus news that really made the Oceanfront sick was the canceling of the music festival organized by Pharrell Williams that was so successful last year, Something in the Water.

“That was huge,” Lyons said. “It’s too early to tell what that weekend will look like. Certainly people might just decide to come anyways.”

Lyons estimates occupancy will be down 50 to 70 percent this week. There are empty rooms, and then there are empty tables.

“If you look around, we are at zero percent capacity right now,” said Mike Standing, owner of Waterman’s Surfside Grille. He says coronavirus is the biggest threat he has seen in his 30 years running the landmark restaurant, and it has forced the staff to be creative and adapt.

“There’s a takeout window and you can sit out in a huge outdoor area so social distancing is a big thing for us right now,” Standing says. The restaurant is limiting indoor service to 50 percent of capacity.

Waterman’s did get some business from Jack Denk of Pittsburgh over the weekend. He and his wife were in town for a wedding, where people were more into celebrating than talking about the virus. “They were at a wedding and they were here to have a good time, and they didn’t seem to be worried about it,” Denk said.

Lyons says 70 percent of hotel revenue comes from four months during the summer, so he still has hope. However, Standing says Waterman’s would normally be at capacity this week.

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