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'First Fridays' returns to Norfolk

The last time Norfolk held a First Fridays event, the year was 2019.

NORFOLK, Va. — The weather Friday night worked out well for a downtown celebration in Norfolk. 

Nearly 30 businesses and crowds of people took part in downtown Norfolk’s “First Fridays"—the first in a long time. The street party is back after a roughly two-year hiatus.

Lines snaked out restaurants and bars.

“It feels good that the community is kind of opening back up again and everybody can come out and enjoy themselves," said Von Lombauch, the general manager of arcade bar Circuit Social

Despite a nationwide labor shortage, Lombauch felt prepared.

"Really just all hands on deck, just making sure everyone can come out and work the event. There was really no navigating per se, I’m pretty well-staffed. I’d like a little bit more, but we’ll get there," he said. 

The celebration stretched 16 blocks along Granby Street. It typically only spans about three blocks.

13News Now asked whether the pandemic played a role in spreading out the event.

“That’s also helpful, but we also stretched it out because of the new ABC permit, to be able to include as many businesses as possible," said Jessica Kliner, the marketing and communications director for Downtown Norfolk Council

A new Virginia ABC law let people take the purchased alcohol from participating restaurants and bring drinks onto the street event.

“We loved the fact that you can go into there and then safely bring it out side then float around," said Monica Barnes, a Suffolk resident. 

People walked Granby Street at their own comfort level. Some people dropped their masks, others had them on. Some groups chose to stay close together, others distanced off to the side.  

Sam and Monica Barnes were pleased first-timers at "First Fridays." They told me they’re vaccinated, but COVID concerns were also top of mind.

“We’ve got our masks. He’s got his gaiter. We definitely want to be outside, but we felt like could socially distance downtown pretty well. Even when we go into the establishments, we still wear our masks," said Monica.

"We definitely want to support the City of Norfolk as well," said Sam. 

"First Fridays" are taking place again September 3 and October 1. The Downtown Norfolk Council is also planning to bring it back in the spring.

ORIGINAL STORY | Norfolk's Downtown block party is making a comeback! The city is hosting its first First Friday event since 2019.

"We're thrilled that the day is here, that the weather is beautiful and that we can move forward with our event," said Jessica Kliner, the marketing and communications director for the Downtown Norfolk Council. 

You can expect some changes with its return. First Fridays used to just cover just three blocks, but it will now span nearly the entire stretch of downtown Granby Street, from Bute Street to Main Street.

"We're moving it to a full 16 blocks. So, we think it's a great opportunity to extend the fun and open up the footprint, spread people out," Kliner said. "There'll be games and activations all up and down the street."

Twenty restaurants are participating, and the size isn't the only thing that's different this year: because of a new Virginia ABC law, you can take your drinks with you on the street.

"There's lots of outdoor events but there's kind of nothing quite like having a drink and having something to eat in the middle of Granby Street," Kliner

This first of First Fridays will run from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

First Fridays will run until October. The Downtown Norfolk Council hopes to bring the event back again in the spring.

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