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The ultimate beach umbrella is waiting for you

May 15, 2020

Our fragile yet beloved food industry here in the Cape Region continues to suffer under this prolonged closure. The mandated shuttering of Delaware’s restaurants seems to be getting more and more arbitrary as other resorts on the east and west coasts begin to open up. They are observing careful sanitation and distancing procedures, but at least they’re open and trying to recover from the financial and emotional toll this ordeal has taken.

Yes, some restaurants are doing takeout and delivery, but the reality is that that’s about as close to “shuttering” as you can get, given that the average restaurant is seeing no more than 10 percent of its normal income. Under normal circumstances, most eateries put around five percent of their gross income to the bottom line. So a little math will quickly reveal that the pennies earned from takeout and delivery are barely enough to keep valued key employees working; much less generate anything even close to a profit. The many faithful locals who are supporting their favorite eateries have probably noted that much of the carryout food is being handed to them by upper-level managers and the owners themselves.

One day (I hope sooner than later) we will be able to again relive fond memories of dining out, enjoying a cocktail crafted by our favorite barkeep, and perhaps even hear some live music. At the risk of indulging in a fantasy, I have to say that one of the most impressive spots to do all those things - and revel in a 360-degree view -  is La Vida Hospitality’s Big Chill Beach Club. Not to be confused with the Big Chill Surf Cantina in Rehoboth (though it is part of the same restaurant group), the Big Chill Beach Club dominates the southeastern beach/state park area at the base of the Indian River Inlet suspension bridge. This oasis on the sand seats about 200 people and includes a wedding/event venue that can accommodate around 175 hearty partiers. And all of this dished up with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Rehoboth Bay, the Indian River Inlet and that majestic span that paints the nighttime sky a deep, cobalt blue.

On Memorial Day weekend 2017, La Vida Hospitality Group and the Delaware State Parks debuted this family-friendly venue at the Seashore State Park South Side Beach area. La Vida won the contract because the proposed additions focused on the park’s environmental friendliness while adding to the existing beach appearance for which that area is so well known.

The spacious upper deck is constructed atop what used to be the concession building. The menu emphasizes a beachy theme, with simple food that’s easy to take down to the water or to enjoy near the bar. The centerpiece of the project is perched at the center of the deck and can be seen from all angles. This impressive structure is a 10-ton, $400,000 “umbrella room” that measures over 36 feet in diameter. The Austrian-built piece of technology can withstand 110 mph winds, and provides visitors with a 360-degree view in total comfort. A high-tech system opens and closes the massive umbrella depending on the weather.

LaVida Hospitality is the ownership entity of Fork & Flask, the Crooked Hammock Breweries, the Taco Reho truck and Big Chill Surf Cantina. The talented team includes La Vida boss Josh Grapski, Taco Reho’s Billy Lucas, Crooked Hammock’s Rich Garrahan and Executive Chef Sean Corea – just to name a few.

Groundbreaking cooperation between the public and private sector helped bring this impressive visitor attraction into fruition. Yet another way for locals and visitors to enjoy the beauty of the natural venue formed by the confluence of the Indian River and the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps one day we will be allowed to enjoy it again.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at byesbek@capegazette.com.

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