Thirsty Camel owner says it will rebuild, Norfolk plans to launch Ocean View tourism fund


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A long-standing Ocean View bar will be rebuilt following a fire last year, and city leaders are hoping there will only be more projects related to the hospitality on the way to the community.

On Tuesday, Norfolk City Council will vote on their budget for fiscal year 2022, which now includes the creation of the Ocean View Tourism Development Fund. The fund – which will start at $ 150,000 – will be used to try to entice new tourism-related businesses to invest in the Willoughby Spit area of ​​East Beach.

As of 2017, the area has been designated as a “tourist area,” meaning it is eligible for grants from the Virginia Tourism Development Fund program. However, Councilor Tommy Smigiel – who represents Ocean View – said that so far the city has not provided any matching funding.

“We’ve been looking at this for several years,” Smigiel said.

With the support of Mayor Kenny Alexander, the new fund could be set up in July.

“Anyone who wants to come in, who attracts a business or something that would attract tourists, would apply for it and then they would get money to help move the process forward,” Smigiel said.

Smigiel pointed out that he has no vision of the Ocean View community becoming something like the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, which is a 42-block resort with high-rise hotels.

“But we also want to have maybe a nice hotel, so if we want to do a 5k or a triathlon or some other big event, there are places where people can stay,” said Smigiel. “It is recognized that Ocean View is something to invest in.”

Smigiel made it his mission to help reverse what he called the negative “stigma” of Ocean View.

In recent years, the city bought and demolished older properties in order to increase access to the public beach.

While the new grant funds will only be available to ‘new’ businesses, a longtime business owner in the community said he was determined to rebuild the famous Bar Thirsty Camel which burned down last year.

“As soon as I get my permits in order, we’re going to go,” Ronnie Boone Sr. said on Monday.

Boone, who also owns the Ocean View fishing pier, had the hull of its long-standing waterhole demolished last week.

A sitemap for the new restaurant – which Boone says would be larger than the 1940s original – was approved in November by the city.

“The construction plan review is complete and what we are waiting for are the completed applications signed by a Class A licensed contractor and the payment of utility charges to the Department of Utilities,” the spokesperson said. of the city, Lori Crouch.

For now, only the Thirsty Camel mascot “Ernie” the camel remains. Boone said rest assured Ernie will be staying when the new bar is rebuilt in the same location.

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