VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — This Memorial Day, sun at the Oceanfront shined like the light at the end of a tunnel.
The sand was full of beachgoers soaking up the good weather. The boardwalk was full of bicycle riders, joggers, and tourists. It felt like a normal holiday weekend in Virginia Beach.
A lot of prep work went into making this Memorial Day weekend not only a success, but also safe for visitors to the Oceanfront.
Despite some up and down weather, many said they are pleased with the unofficial start to the summer. It’s like it was summer 2019 again — well, almost.
“I own the Bella Pizza here. You guys remember me before from last year I think when they [broke] the windows,” said Engin Alpalmha, the owner of Bella Pizza.
This time last summer, Alpalmha was working on getting his windows fixed after several protests turned destructive down on Atlantic Avenue. This year for Memorial Day weekend, he says it was much more peaceful.
“Not like it used to be but still busy. But maybe we are short on the employees, we can’t make it to everything on time, but still busy. Business is good,” he said.
Sunday’s storms did dampen business at Ocean Eddie’s a little.
“It was just such a driving windy rain, that does slow us down a little bit because people have to walk up on the pier,” said Jeff Hague, the manager at Ocean Eddie’s.
Memorial Day itself, however, did not disappoint.
“We literally had people lined up at the door before we unlocked the door to get in here,” said Hague. “A lot of happy people.”
Other businesses along the strip say they enjoyed the boost in business. Businesses that had to close their doors last Memorial Day were open and full of customers.
“Given the weather too, it was busier than we expected — more people out and about,” said Grace Bozeman, who works at the Shore Store.
According to Hague, they were predicting a big weekend even if restrictions weren’t lifted
“Because people were just determined to get out and go enjoy the beach, good food and drink, atmosphere and views,” Hague said.
Bozeman said they were busy at the Shore Store, but the staffing shortage did run them thin.
“We have a good amount of girls I guess in the store but we are definitely working longer shifts because of the staffing issue.” she said.
That was a theme heard from other restaurant businesses as well. For weeks, 10 On Your Side has reported on staffing issues plaguing the hospitality industry.
At Ocean’s 14, 10 On Your Side spoke briefly with the owner. She didn’t have time to go on camera because she was back in the kitchen working. She said the staffing issues at her restaurant are so bad they had to severely limit the amount of people they served this past weekend.
Hague says that hasn’t been much of an issue for Ocean Eddie’s.
“Generally speaking we are staffed up,” said Hague. “We have a great staff here, a lot of high school and college kids who come back and work for us every year.”
“A lot more business, everybody is definitely ready to get out of the house,” said Evan Parks, general manager of the Atlantic Fun Park.
One owner off camera said they were very busy but couldn’t fill the dining room because of being short staffed. But after the shifts, when everything began to close down, Bozeman said it was nice to see Virginia Beach police patrolling the area.
“When I was working yesterday, I saw the horse police were put here too, and the bike police,” said Bozeman.
“Given that I’m 19 and working here until 11 or 12 at night, having them here makes me feel pretty safe when I leave,” she said.
Alpalmha said he heard no complaints from anyone, and everyone was on their best behavior.
He hopes the trend continues throughout the summer.
People were still in the resort area Monday, extending their start to the summer season a little while longer.
Even with the weekend rain, business owners are happy that Virginia Beach is once again completely open.
And the spirit of the day was not forgotten.
A group of veterans did what’s known as a “Murph” workout.
“It’s in honor of Lt. Murphy, a SEAL who died in combat,” explained participant Christina Price. “His daily workout was a mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, another mile run with a weighted vest on. We did that without the weighted vest.”
A tough task for a tough cause, honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so Americans everywhere can enjoy this beautiful day.