La Vida adds voice to restaurant debate

Public hearing on proposed facility at Cape Henlopen State Park is Dec. 5
December 1, 2022

Throughout the debate over the proposed restaurant at Cape Henlopen State Park, one voice has not been heard publicly, until now.

Josh Grapski, managing partner at La Vida Hospitality, the company awarded a Delaware State Parks bid for concessions and to investigate the possibility of a restaurant, provided the Cape Gazette with a statement, which has been posted in its entirety on La Vida’s website at

“We have the opportunity to create a great amenity to an area of CHSP that is a draw for parkgoers. Learning from our previous experience, we are comfortable that both locals and tourists would enjoy this amenity given we have firsthand experience for the past seven years. With such an opportunity comes a responsibility. As many who have opposed the new project for various reasons rightly point out, there are many factors to consider if a hospitality-based amenity is to be created in a state park. Listening to those concerns, I hear an immense amount of passion and care for a treasure to the region. I share that passion and concern as an active parkgoer for the past 18 years.”

Delaware State Parks will host a public forum at Cape Henlopen High School starting at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 5, to discuss the proposed restaurant.

Regarding financial implications at Cape Henlopen State Park: “[Delaware State Parks] have a large backlog of over $210 million in needed improvements statewide with nearly $80 million in CHSP alone. Without additional revenue, this park will continue to face challenges in meeting the growing demand of the parkgoers. This opportunity is a solution for some of the challenges CHSP is facing. This project would need zero investment dollars from the public. In addition, it would add approximately $200,000 of annual revenue to the budget, not including potential additional entry fees nor the value of the building which would revert to parks’ ownership upon completion or termination of the lease. I believe this piece of the debate is essential and not being discussed. It is part of the reality that Delaware State Parks is facing.”

Why a restaurant in Cape Henlopen State Park? “At the heart of the debate is this question. Through the bid process, the parks wanted to improve the walk-on beach area for better public use. From what we gathered, we heard several key components: 1. Improved food offerings and quality; 2. Better access to the beach on the northern end of the parking lot ideally with ADA access; 3. Upgraded facilities: bathrooms and showers; 4. Additional amenities such as bathroom and shower facilities at the northern end of the parking lot and offering beach rentals such as umbrellas and chairs to beachgoers; 5. Given the limited funds, looking for a way to make these upgrades without public funding. In addition, a way to create additional revenue for the parks.

“La Vida worked toward creating something that fit these needs. Most clearly, what I heard was they would not be able to make these improvements without such an arrangement. To the point of whether a restaurant is an amenity to CHSP, we fortunately have seven years of experience with Big Chill Beach Club at Delaware Seashore State Park. The public absolutely considers dining at Delaware Seashore a form of public recreation. We are an asset to the park.

“I believe that a restaurant is an improvement to CHSP. For a park that receives over 1.7 million visitors a year, it is offering a form of public recreation. There are many examples of restaurants in both state and national parks throughout the country. From what I have been able to surmise, they are typically placed in popular parks in previously high volume areas of human activity, as is the case here. From the Shenandoahs to Yosemite, restaurants are commonplace in the parks’ systems.”

Regarding the Warner Grant: “I do firmly believe that a restaurant is public recreation, managed in conjunction with an experienced, private entity. That said, I understand the opposition’s view on this.

“I do wonder if this were pursued legally if the impact of the defense of the Warner Act has been considered. If it were declared that the Warner Grant should not allow for public-private partnerships, it would mean a reduction in the amenities within Cape Henlopen. It would eliminate the bait and tackle shop, food concessions and kayak tours from Cape Henlopen. It would also seem to eliminate the Friends of Cape Henlopen State Park’s bike operations and museum as a functioning private not-for-profit entity. Is this really helping CHSP?”

Regarding the impact on the environment: “I believe the general area being currently considered is optimal. The walk-on beach area currently entertains hundreds of thousands of people a year already and is surrounded by human activity with the Hawk Watch and the pavilion to the north, the popular beach to the east and the David McBride Bathhouse to the south. With such human activity present, impact on wildlife is minimal.

“An area of less than a half acre is needed to erect a building. Having listened to opposition, I concede that this could be less if the bathhouse footprint were reused. I think it would be appropriate to consider this side to even further reduce the footprint to zero square footage of impact on the dunes. This is something La Vida Hospitality would be willing to consider if Delaware State Parks thought it prudent.

“Lights and windows can be designed for minimal impact on the surroundings. Existing sound at the current location is similar to what a restaurant would bring.

“We firmly believe that a solution can be had for both responsible development of a restaurant and protecting the environment. Overall, we know that design can be used to manage the impact on the environment.

“We are aware that some may not agree with us or believe a restaurant is an asset to CHSP. I can understand if the general public as a majority were against this, but I don’t believe that is the case. A second voice that is being spoken, albeit not in the media, is one of positivity for the project with responsible management.”

La Vida operates three restaurants in the Lewes-Rehoboth area, including Taco Reho, Big Chill and Crooked Hammock Brewery.


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