VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – With all capacity limits and social distancing requirements now dropped in Virginia, the Oceanfront is coming back to life.
Ava Alford of Chesterfield came to the beach with a group of friends to celebrate a 20th birthday.
“We were really excited,” Alford said. “We planned this as soon as we could, and we all went out. It felt good; felt good.”
The beach was packed Friday with people basking in a mask-free world.
At Ocean Eddies Seafood Restaurant on Atlantic Avenue, they’re banking on a busy tourism season after being hit hard by the pandemic.
“People are happy; they want to be outside,” said Ocean Eddie’s Seafood Restaurant Manager Debbie Lou Hague. “They want to eat food, drink drinks and we're excited about that. I’m just excited for summer to start. Last year, it was just a different world.”
Ocean Eddie’s Seafood Restaurant Manager Parkerson Hague said they’ve already noticed more people coming in throughout the day.
Related: Virginia Beach prepares for crowds ahead of Memorial Day weekend
“There’s definitely a lot more people starting to come out now that you don’t have to have these restrictions,” he said. “We have our bars back. We're able to stay open later. You see a lot more life at the Oceanfront compared to what it was last year.”
Peabody’s Nightclub on 21st Street is also feeling the impact.
“I think a lot of people are ready to go out and have a good time; it’s been a long time,” said Peabody’s Nightclub owner Brandon Ramsey. “We’re going to allow dancing again, which is exciting.”
21st Street is the main artery to the Oceanfront with lots of cars and foot traffic, and with the busy holiday weekend underway, police are at the ready on foot, bikes and in patrol cars.
According to Police Chief Paul Neudigate,the department is significantly understaffed, but the city has beefed up security with help from sheriff’s deputies to curb violence
It was two months ago where back-to-back shootings at the Oceanfront left two people dead and multiple others injured.
“There's still things to do,” Debbie Lou Hague said. “There’s things that we can positively do to help transition into this new world that we're living in
, but I really do think that they are on top of their game.”
Ramsey also has confidence the police will keep visitors safe.
“They have already actually met with us today and talked about how we can come together as a community to make a difference,” Ramsey said. “They want to be part of a solution. That’s what everyone wants - is to be part of a solution down here.”
Visitors can expect to see a bigger police presence through the rest of the weekend. Officers will also be patrolling on ATVs and boats.