Norfolk re-introduces 'First Fridays' after COVID-19 stopped the party

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Posted at 5:39 AM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 23:49:54-04

NORFOLK, Va. – First Fridays is back with dancing, mingling and even drinking in the streets.

The Downtown Norfolk Council kicked off its annual First Fridays tradition on Friday, August 6 at 5 p.m.

The reported surge in COVID-19 cases didn’t stop people from having some fun. Downtown Norfolk was packed with hundreds of people for the first block party after a year-long hiatus because of COVID.

First Fridays attracted newcomers like Netri Patel, who just moved to the area and is ready to explore.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said the Norfolk resident. “When I first came in, I was pretty confused on what was going on. Then the guy explained it to me, which was really interesting because that's how you get to know the city better.”

The event bubble was bigger than in 2019. It spanned several more blocks with 26 different restaurants taking part, hoping for a boost in business.

“We’re just excited to see Granby Street vibrant and all these people out here enjoying a beautiful night supporting our businesses with 16 blocks of space to enjoy it, and entertainment all throughout; it's really great,” said Jessica Kliner, director of marketing for the Downtown Norfolk Council.

Some restaurants and bars offered specials, and many had outdoor seating.

“We’re fairly new here, so the experience we’re trying to give out to the people will be great,” said Stacy Cherry, an owner of Cherry-O To-Go, which offers Southern-style food, including smothered pork chops and salmon croquettes.

“We’re so glad to be able to do this to support our downtown businesses so they can benefit from the revenue of having people purchase their food and beverage directly from the businesses versus us selling it at our tent,” Kliner explained.

A new liquor law is also different this year. A new ABC license allowed people to walk around certain areas with drinks in hand similar to the Las Vegas strip.

“You can purchase a beverage at any of our downtown businesses and bring it out on the street and walk throughout downtown,” said Kliner. “We’re going to have lots of entertainment from one end of Granby Street to another."

Dan Epperson and Quinn Burgess of Norfolk were loving the new law.

“At first it feels wrong, but after one or two more of these, it’s going to feel better and right,” Epperson said. “This should be legal all the time. Cities like New Orleans have been doing it for a couple centuries now, and they've been thriving.”

Burgess agreed.

“Atlanta, Georgia; let’s bring Norfolk on the map,” he said.

There are two Fridays left for the event: September 3 and October 1. Organizers are hoping to bring First Fridays back next year starting in the spring.

Here is more helpful information from the Downtown Norfolk Council:

Where to Go:

Main Street to Bute Street, east to Monticello Avenue and west to Boush Street.

Street Closures:

While the event bubble is 16 blocks, only the following roads will be closed from approximately 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, August 6:

  • Granby Street from Main Street to Plume Street
  • Granby Street from Tazewell Street to East Freemason Street
  • Market Street
  • College Place

Parking removal will begin at 2 p.m.

For more information, including the entertainment and specific businesses participating, click here.