PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — Looking around Pensacola Beach Wednesday afternoon, it’s easy to find a parking spot at Casino Beach.
And the beach’s white sands aren’t crowded with umbrellas and beach towels.
That’s expected to change soon as thousands of tourists and locals flock to Pensacola Beach for Memorial Day weekend.
Memorial Day weekend is always a big day for businesses along the Gulf and could be the biggest one in at least a year.
“It feels great to have the world back to normal in a sense,” said Executive Chef Edwin Vega, who works at both Water Pig BBQ and Red Fish Blue Fish. “I think it’s going to be something people aren’t expecting. We are going to have big numbers this weekend.”
Many local restaurants on the beach have previously reported slow business. The Three Mile Bridge closure and the pandemic have caused obstacles for beach restaurants trying to get customers in the door.
For the most part, that struggle seems to be working itself out.
“We did have a little lull but for the most part … we have had record breaking numbers (since),” Vega said.
At Water Pig BBQ, pitmaster Steve Seige said he’s preparing to cook more than 1,400 pounds of barbecue this weekend. He, too, has seen a rebound in business compared to 2020, but he expects this weekend to be huge.
“I think it’s probably going to be one of the biggest weekends they’ve had in a while,” Seige said. “I think everyone is ready to get out.”
It’s also a huge weekend for beach hotels. Bookings are breaking pre-pandemic highs.
“We are expecting a bigger turnout on Pensacola Beach this year than even 2019 pre-pandemic,” said Scott Ford, director of marketing for Innisfree Hotels. “The numbers are really trending upward. People want a beach vacation.”
Restaurants will likely be offering specials on the beach for Memorial Day weekend. Executive Chef Omar Torres said Sal de Mar, located outside of the Hilton Hotel, will be serving up 40 ounce margaritas.
“We’re really excited to have people coming back and enjoying the beach,” Torres said. “Best white sands in the world.”