Restaurants in Parking Lots? Virginia Beach Lays Out Plan to Reopen Beaches

In this April 4, 2020, photo, windy and cool conditions did not attract many visitors to the beach in Virginia Beach, Va. Along Virginia’s coast, a long list of festivals have already been canceled, and the usually bustling Virginia Beach oceanfront sits quiet and empty. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

By Arianna Coghill

May 13, 2020

Restaurants in parking lots? Cleaning teams scouring the beach routinely? These are only some of the safety measures Virginia Beach has pitched in the hopes of lifting some of the restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by Memorial Day weekend. 

Gov. Ralph Northam did not include beaches in the first phase of his reopening plan, but suggested that he might change his mind if a “comprehensive plan can be put in place.”

In a Tuesday night presentation for the Virginia Beach City Council, the city proposed several ideas to reopen the beach while ensuring the safety of residents. The latest city plan includes:

  • Dividing the Oceanfront, bayfront and Sandbridge into manageable “zones” or areas of engagement and enforcement. It would include the bike path and boardwalk.
  • Deploying “clean teams” to work in shifts to clean high-touch areas, restrooms and shower towers.
  • Deploying “beach ambassadors” to help enforce safe social distancing on the beaches.
  • Posting educational materials through the resort area, especially at beach access points.

“We want to not only encourage the governor to trust that we can have this safe environment, but we want it for our visitors that Virginia Beach has the gold standard,” said Deputy City Manager Ron Williams in an interview with WAVY 10.

The plan to deploy cleaning teams and social ambassadors will include:

  • Clean teams working in teams of two and will cover a five block area from the Boardwalk to Atlantic Avenue 
  • The teams are supposed to wipe and spray water fountains, footwashes, crosswalk buttons and magazine bins in the area
  • They will also powerwash formal beach access points at Sandbridge and bayfront beaches
  • Cleaning will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday

Among the proposed ideas, methods to help struggling restaurants and to expand outdoor dining were included. 

Under Phase One of reopening, outdoor dining is only allowed to occur at 50% capacity. However, this restriction will leave some restaurants with only takeout and delivery options since they only have indoor seating. 

So the solution is to create new outdoor seating areas.

“We would like to bring forward an ordinance for your consideration to allow (restaurants) the use of public sidewalks, boardwalk and connector parks and the greenbelt and public parking lots,” Williams said to WAVY 10.

 Restaurants and bars will still have to file a permit to set up chairs and tables in these alternate locations. The city staff is still working on specifics in order to file a formal proposal. Williams hopes that restaurants will begin operating as soon as the weekend. 

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