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Oceanfront bars keep New Year's parties, adjust timing to follow COVID-19 rules

New Year’s closings across Hampton Roads
Posted at 5:56 AM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 14:05:38-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Instead of canceling their countdowns to 2021 on Thursday, some Virginia Beach Oceanfront bars are just moving them earlier.

The Shack on 8th is calling its party "Cheers from Here -- It's 2021 Somewhere." Each hour, from noon to 10 p.m., the popular outdoor bar will celebrate the New Year as different timezones around the world reach midnight.

"We have D.J.s, we have a different drink every hour that represents the place that it'll be New Years at that moment so there's still plenty of fun to be had," said Eric Emerson, General Manager for The Shack and sister restaurants, Chix on the Beach and Waterman's.

The change is to comply with Virginia COVID-19 restrictions, which require restaurants and bars to stop serving alcohol by 10 p.m. and to close entirely by midnight. People are also supposed to stay home from midnight until 5 a.m. unless purchasing food, going to work or there's a medical emergency.

Last year for New Year's, The Shack, Chix and Waterman's all had bands, Emerson says, and there was a shuttle busing people between the three.

This year, people have to stay at their tables. Because The Shack is outdoors, Emerson tells News 3 he's bringing in heaters to keep people warm and there are covered areas offering shelter from rain.

Although disappointed to not be able to hold the typical New Year's party, Emerson says he and his team have had to think creatively all year to keep people coming during the COVID-19 pandemic and it's worked out.

"From this New Year's Eve concept, to the winter wonderland that we did, to the grocery market that we did inside, to turning this big outdoor bar space into an outdoor dining space, it's really been about adjusting and changing course and reacting on the fly," he said.

Several streets up at Murphy's Irish Pub, the New Year's celebration kicks off at 5 p.m. with a champagne toast at 7 -- midnight in Ireland. The party is set to wrap around 9.

Managers there tell News 3 they're also disappointed to not be able to hold a party like in year's past, but at the same time, they're grateful just to be open.

Taking a difficult situation and doing the best they can on a night that can bring in a lot of money for businesses like this.