With 2 more years of construction to go, VB businesses around 19th St. are worried


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Zoe’s Steak and Seafood is considered one of the finest restaurants not only in Hampton Roads, but Virginia.

Co-owner Mark Sauter should be happy, but he’s not.

“We had three major Christmas parties that we have had the last three or four years, and they have canceled on us or gone elsewhere. They are saying ‘well we are going to try something new’ but I wonder because they don’t want their employees to go through this mess or try to get to us.”

There is a maze for traffic to go through to get to 19th Street businesses. There are lots of signs, and if you are familiar with the business, you get how to get there. It’s the new business that could be turned off the most.

“This is not speculation … we track it … from July last year, 2017, to November compared to this year we are down 45 percent for people walking in through the door,” Sauter said. 

The 19th Street Infrastructure Improvement Project, taking place in what’s now referred to as the ViBe Creative District, began in July.

“That’s what happens when you have projects of this size. We are always well aware of the issues whether it is this project or other projects.” said Virginia Beach Public Works Spokesperson Drew Lankford.

The city knows there is an issue and that’s why they constructed a $50,000 driveway from Parks Avenue into Zoe’s parking lot, avoiding the mess on 19th Street.

Lankford says, “they wanted it and we constructed it.”

10 On Your Side pointed out to Sauter it was a good thing what the city did with the driveway. He said, “They did that and we are very happy, absolutely.” Lankford also pointed out, “one of the things we tell people is take receipts from three years for that same period and give it to risk management with the city, and they will work with them for any compensation they think is due.”

Sauter also points out, “we have Uber drivers who leave people a block away, so it’s challenging to people coming in the doors.”

Sauter’s not alone.

“I think the customers are finding it hard to find us,” said Wave Riding Vehicles General Manager Dave Lewis. “They may give up … as the holiday approaches I hope the city will be mindful of this and let people know we are open in the ViBe District.”

The ViBe Creative District supports the project.

“We have worked for a long time with the city, and we think this is important to connect the Convention Center to the Oceanfront,” said Co-founder Laura Habr. It will create great synergy between the two.” 

Three Ships Coffee Bar and Roastery owner Brad Ewing is worried about customers, especially new ones, getting to him.

“It’s a two-year project, and we are concerned it will impact our growth and that it weakens our growth.”

Down the road at Beach Bully Barbecue, longtime chef Cecil Browne said, “The locals know how to get here, but the people for the first time have a tough time to get into the business because they have to reroute the business.”

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