Oceanfront Dairy Queen may become city-owned, VB budget earmarks $45m for resort acquisition

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – If the city manager’s budget proposal passes as is, money would be made available to the city to buy the iconic Dairy Queen promenade and the stage at Oceanfront 17th Street. .

Previously described by its longtime owner Richard Maddox as one of the most profitable Dairy Queens in the country, the nearly 3,600 square foot store between Atlantic Avenue and the 17th Street promenade serves chocolate-dipped cones by hand since 1995.

Maddox also owns the 900+ square foot stage and lawn across the park from 17th Street in the city. Under a rental contract, the city organizes nightly entertainment there during the warmer months.

However, the reason for the proposed purchase and the property’s long-term plan are likely not publicly known by briefly perusing the city’s nearly $2.5 billion FY23 budget proposal. For this and other reasons, many regular critics of the city’s spending proposals are already speaking out against the idea.

Of more than 30 economic and tourism development projects listed under the city’s Capital Improvement Project (CIP) budget, a project titled “Acquisition of Resort Area Site” has the highest price but the smallest description associated with it.

The CIP document explains that $45 million would be set aside to “provide the flexibility to purchase land in the resort area” and that “targeted purchases include the preservation of 17th Street Park and
adjacent upgrades.

Aside from explaining that the funds will come from the city’s tourism investment program – which consists mostly of taxes on hotels, restaurants, entertainment and cigarettes – that’s about all the city is saying. publicly.

This has opened the door to widespread speculation on social media among those who often oppose public investment in the tourism industry.

“They haven’t told any citizens what this means,” said Rona Marsh, a perennial critic of city spending who is campaigning for the city council’s new eighth ward this fall. “It’s very concerning.”

Councilman John Moss raised similar concerns at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

“I think we need to add some granularity to that $45 million,” Moss said. ” It is unclear. It does not build trust.

Councilman Linwood Branch, owner of the Days Inn by Wyndham on 10th Street, said the money was mostly set aside to fix long-standing parking issues.

“Parking is the problem, the station is the only place where restaurants and retail stores don’t need to park and therefore for decades we have used neighborhoods as satellite parking lots and that needs to end. “Branch said. “We need to act now, deal with parking, acquire properties and build parking garages so we can get parking out of neighborhoods.”

Branch made no public comment on the ground along 17th Street.

Neither did Maddox, who told a 10 On Your Side reporter “he doesn’t want to discuss the matter at this time.”

Following the meeting, Councilor Guy Tower confirmed that the council had held discussions with Maddox but that no contract had been drawn up.

“It’s a great strategic acquisition if we can pull it off,” Tower said. “But it depends on the price, depends on a lot of things.”

He doesn’t think it would be considered a parking space and thinks the community would like to keep it as green space.

Maddox, 66, and his family have been satisfying the sweet tooth of summer tourists for more than 70 years. His father, the late John Maddox, opened the station’s first DQ in 1949 on 27th Street.

If sold, the Dairy Queen would be the latest Oceanfront landmark to change hands from its longtime owners. Earlier this month, owners of Ocean City, Maryland-based retail chain Sunsations purchased the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier for $19 million.