HAMPTON, Va. - Hampton City Council voted to allow a block of E. Queens Way to remain closed to cars for outdoor dining. Restaurant owners along this block say outdoor dining contributed to more business in the area.
“We’re getting back to even right now - back to pre-COVID numbers - and the outdoor dining is a big part of it,” said Carlyle Bland, the owner of Venture Kitchen, Brown Chicken Brown Cow and Marker 20.
E. Queens Way was turned into an area for outdoor dining at the beginning of the pandemic. It was successful for businesses, and the city decided to keep it going.
“We can’t accommodate large parties indoors, but we can outdoors. Business has doubled,” said Courtney Lowrey said, a bartender at Goody’s Deli.
Lowrey says they’ve been able to attract more customers with outdoor seating.
“We wouldn’t have been able to accommodate the kind of customers we’re getting now, which is wonderful for us.”
Hampton charges a 7.5% food and beverage tax. A city spokesperson says the outdoor seating has made a huge difference in the city’s revenue. From April to June of this year, the city reported $6.6 million in its meals tax revenue compared to $5.9 million pre-pandemic in 2019.
“It’s created a more walkable environment. People are walking up and down the street and discovering that more than they would have in their car,” said Robin McCormick, a spokesperson for the City of Hampton.
Azera White, a Hampton resident and frequent Venture customer, says the outdoor seating has made her more reluctant to eat out in recent months.
“I’m not vaccinated, so it’s better so I can separate from people and not catch the virus.”
Bland says being able to serve alcohol outside has played a major role in their revenue.
“If we did this without alcohol, it wouldn’t fly. It [outdoor dining] just wouldn’t work.”
A spokesperson for the city says the area will more than likely reopen to cars in the winter.