“We have this problem that we have been pretending doesn’t exist and I understand it’s for the right reasons,” says Bill Dillon, the owner of Abbey Road Pub & Restaurant on 22nd Street. “We want tourism to be good here, but we have to fix it for tourism to improve.”
Since opening the bar and restaurant in 1982, Dillon has seen both the good and bad over the years at the Oceanfront.
“We did Atlantic Avenue beautification,” he says. “We’ve done a lot of improvements to the boardwalk. We have a beautiful oceanfront.”
Dillon recalls the Greekfest riots in ’89.
“I was sitting that Sunday night of Labor Day Weekend by myself at the back of the bar with a shotgun,” Dillon says.
For decades, Dillon has seen the area transform, but the violence is one thing that he says hasn’t changed. All of his pent up frustration came to a head during College Beach Weekend in April. He has reached out to city leaders, writing a lengthy letter calling for a solution.
“My message was to the mayor and to the city council and the city manager was please let’s try a different approach,” he says. “We’ve been doing the same things for 20 years and they haven’t worked.”
Dillon says since he gave out the letter in May, he’s discussed the issues with several council members; however, with tourist season in full swing, he says change needs to happen sooner than later.
Thursday, members of the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association are meeting with city council members to discuss solutions to the violence. City Councilman Bob Dyer says Police Chief Jim Cervera is still in the process of doing an after action report from College Beach Weekend and is expected to come up with his own recommendations.