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ViBe District still taking a sales hit as years-long construction continues

''We are the verge of losing some of our staff because if we are down 30 to 40 percent.''

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The big orange cones and building materials that line 19th Street are a continuing problem for the small businesses that make the ViBe District great.

Virginia Beach city leaders stared a project to improve the area in 2018. They are working to make 18th and 19th Streets an area people can walk to easily by widening sidewalks, working on the road and more.

Back in August, we heard from restaurant owners who told us sales were down 10 percent over the summer. 

Now, it's winter and things aren't getting any better.

“It looks like a war zone most of the time, but I know when it's done, it's going to be wonderful,” said Zoes Sommelier and co-owner Marc Sauter.

Zoes Steak and Seafood is coming up on 11 years in Virginia Beach this March, but for the past few months staff haven't felt like celebrating.

"Construction started July 1, 2018,” Sauter said. “We were down 30 percent that month. It has just been a tough, tough road ever since that construction started."

FROM 2019: 'We are down 10%, which, for a small business, is significant.' Oceanfront restaurants down in sales during 19th Street Construction.

Sauter said winter is their busy season. But, right now they face a 40 percent loss in sales.'

"We are the verge of losing some of our staff because if we are down 30 to 40 percent,” Sauter said. “The service staff who work for tips are down 30 to 40 percent."

Sauter said he appreciates the city’s improvements and is excited for the end goal, but added it creates obstacles for customers.

"The sidewalks are whiter, the lights up and down the street look beautiful,” Sauter said. “It is still a little dangerous out, it is not all leveled."

Other restaurants like The Beach Bully said construction has been tough, but they have catering.

"The caterings have pushed us through everything,” said Beach Bully cook Matt Cabalbag. “We just did a 200-person wedding this past weekend."

Zoes got a push of its own over the summer when it was named one of America’s 100 best wine restaurants by the Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

"When we got that award back in July, it helped us out,” Sauter said. “It was a huge increase for a couple of months."

Sauter said it gave them a few new regulars, but the sales increase didn't last. However, he said the support from their regulars and help from ViBe District businesses keeps their glasses half full.

“We are kind of banding together as a community and doing some joint advertising,” Sauter said. “Letting people know we are still open. It may be a little hard to get to us, but please be patient."

Sauter hopes the finished product fills everyone's doors in a few months.

"If we can be done by September, it rushes us into our great season,” Sauter said. "We are looking forward to that for sure."

The project is expected to finish in late summer or early fall. It will open along with the new Virginia Beach Sports Center which is set to be finished in November.

Until then, ViBe District businesses hope you will stop by.

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