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Back to the Beach: Oceanfront restaurants going "all out," tweaking iconic drinks as summer season arrives

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Posted at 7:33 AM, Jun 03, 2022

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - During the busy lunch rush at Aloha Snacks, Maria Harold sat with her family — smiles on their faces as they dug into the dishes on the table.

"I went to my doctor's office," Harold explained. "I told him how we like to eat raw fish and he said, 'I got one place for you to go to' and he told me Aloha Snacks."

An...odd prescription to say the least, but for Harold, who says she misses the food from her native Guam, it was just what the doctor ordered.

"It's excellent," she told News 3 of the island-inspired menu.

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Maria Harold (right) enjoys a meal at Aloha Snacks with her family.

That's what the owner, Jesse Wykle, likes to hear and with the summer season having finally arrived, he hopes to hear it a lot more from visitors and locals alike.

"We call it the 100-year war so from Memorial Day to Labor Day, baby," an excited Wykle said of the busy season. "It's all out. We got traffic, it's hot."

And as the weather heats up, so does the sales potential for 'Aloha' and other restaurants at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

Across Laskin Road, Chip Holland is entering his second summer as a co-owner at Nick's Raw Bar and Grill. In 2022, the business is celebrating 70 years...all at the same location and things are looking strong.

"The beach is already getting busy, people are here and it seems like people are really eager," Holland told News 3 the week before Memorial Day. "Our staff is amazing. They stuck with us when we took over."

After shutdowns in 2020 and rebuilding in 2021, the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association hopes Summer '22 is one to remember, but there are still challenges for restaurants to navigate.

"They're having to pay their employees more to attract them and keep them. Obviously, everybody knows as the gas prices rise, so does everything else," said Martha Davenport, Executive Director for the organization.

Staffing also continues to be an issue.

"We are still seeing shortages for the summer season and still need those temporary workers. We do have some J-1 Visas coming in, but it's not enough to fill the open positions that we need," said Davenport. "(There are) rising food costs. We still have some constrictions on supply chain issues."

Those supply chain issues have led to delays in vodka shipments at Waterman's Surfside Grille...and a lot of frustration. Vodka is a key ingredient in the Atlantic Avenue restaurant's iconic crushes.

As a result, this summer begins a new chapter.

"We're opening a distillery that's going to be just outside of The Shack and making our own vodka and that's our exciting new thing of the year," said Eric Emerson, General Manager at Waterman's, along with sister businesses Chix on the Beach and The Shack on 8th.

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Bartender pours vodka into crush at Waterman's.

Emerson tells News 3 that Waterman Spirits is the idea of Mariah Standing, who, with husband Mike, owns Waterman's, Chix and The Shack.

The organic, all-natural vodka produced at the distillery will be used at all three restaurants. It will also be available for customers to purchase.

"(It's) the best possible vodka we could come up with so that when we sell someone an orange crush, it's better than ever," said Emerson.

It will also help this major player in the Virginia Beach Oceanfront restaurant scene bypass any future supply chain delays.

Waterman Spirits is expected to open mid-summer.