Virginia Beach business owners excited about SITW return in 2023

In 2019, Virginia Beach leaders said the festival had an economic impact of $21 million. Business owners hope for similar results in 2023.

Virginia Beach, Va. — Something in the Water will return to Hampton Roads next year.

Festival founder and music icon Pharrell Williams has announced that the Pop Music Festival will take place in Virginia Beach from April 28-30, 2023.

The news sent waves across the region, especially by business owners on the Virginia Beach waterfront.

“This is really good news. We’re excited to hear about it,” said John Zilkel, president of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association.

For Zirkle, the return of pop festivals is music in his ears.

This news is what business owners around the waterfront have been hoping for and waiting for. That could mean thousands of tourists and a huge economic spark.

In 2019, Virginia Beach leaders said hotel occupancy rates reached 90 percent as part of the festival’s $21 million economic impact on the city.

“No, we wanted to say, ‘Do we have rooms? How many rooms do we have?'” Zirkle said.

But there are doubts that the festival will return.

After COVID-19 caused the festival to be canceled in 2020, the following year, festival founder Pharrell wrote a letter saying he didn’t want to bring something in the water back to Virginia Beach, citing “toxic energy.”

Pharrell also mentioned the city’s response to the death of his cousin Donovon Lynch, who was shot and killed by a Virginia Beach police officer in 2021.

Since then, city leaders said they and Pharrell discussed a way forward.

“We have to put aside our differences and find what’s good for everyone,” Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer said.

Assemblyman Aaron Rouse said, “Knowing that friends can have difficult conversations has made us what we are today. If you have a problem, you will address it head-on, and that’s what we do.”

Back on the Virginia Beach waterfront, George Frank is excited about what this means for his business, Sunnyside Cafe and Restaurant.

Frank got a taste of the festival’s impact three years ago and said customers have been asking if or when it will come back.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t heard anything until now,” he said.

Businesses now have about five months to prepare for the festival, which sold out its first 25,000 tickets in nearly 20 minutes in 2019.

Zirkle told 13News Now that the hotel had just learned of the festival, along with other planned events, that the waterfront would be packed on weekends in April.

He encouraged people to book hotels early.

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