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Local businesses prepare for loosened restrictions

Alcohol sales and capacity changes have bars and restaurants looking toward the Spring.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Restrictions have begun to loosen for businesses in Virginia.

Starting on March 1, restaurants, breweries, and other foodservice businesses can sell alcohol until midnight, a two-hour jump from previous COVID-19 restrictions.

Those new expanded hours will probably see the biggest impact on the weekends.

"Those are premium nights on Friday and Saturday. [For] a lot of venues, Friday and Saturday is when they pay their bills," said Ballyhoos co-owner Craig Davis.

Those Friday and Saturday nights had been ending early in Virginia since Governor Ralph Northam banned alcohol sales after 10 p.m. at bars and restaurants. 

That ended Monday. Now, looser restrictions extend that limit to midnight. Davis and his Shore Drive brethren are ready to return to a routine more akin to normalcy. 

"From the business all the way down to each employee, their hours were greatly affected. We're normally 'til 2 a.m. so you're talking 30 hours a week cut out. It hurt, it definitely left a dent on a lot of these employees," said Davis, lamenting lost tips and hours for his staff, "We're just beat down at this point. You give up trying to debate. We've kind of made it through the tough spot. It's a glimmer of hope in the right direction."

The new order also ends the midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew, increases outdoor social gathering capacity to 25 people, and lets outdoor entertainment parks operate at a capacity of up to 30 percent or 1,000 people.

Ballyhoos also has a large outdoor space that Davis hopes will fill a schedule previously emptied by the pandemic.