Ocean club

Paradise Ocean Club owner says closure was ‘deliberate’

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Baxter Simmons, the owner of Paradise Ocean Club, told 10 On Your Side he was caught off guard Thursday. The National Park Service told Simmons it had to close Paradise Ocean Club.

He has led the club since 2012.

As it has been 10 years, it was time to renew the lease. Simmons spent time drafting a lease in March. A month later, he sent some additional comments to the National Park Service. He expected to get an answer and negotiate a deal, but there was radio silence.

“I thought everything was fine…and I never heard anything,” Simmons said.

He thought everything was fine, so Simmons continued to book the dedicated offseason for the restaurant business. The club still closes after Labor Day, but it remains open for special events. He’s booked a few weddings, family reunions, and end-of-year parties.

He said the National Park Service had expressed no concerns about the property or the changes it wanted to make.

“There has never been a problem. We have never had an incident in ten years. The incident that happened in June did not happen on our property. The person wasn’t caught, so they weren’t related to us at all, so for them to use that as an excuse against us,” he said. “It happened on national park property. They weren’t patrolling or enforcing their own property back then.

Anyway, Simmons received a letter on Thursday. He said he had 30 days to vacate the property.

“I think it was done deliberately because there was no communication along the way,” he said. “When you ignore a tenant who pays you $300,000 a year and say after seven weeks you’re out.”

Simmons was informed that the National Park Service was changing the view of the property.

“It doesn’t fit. In the tender [Request for Proposal]it does not give them the right to change the vision,” he said.

He said it didn’t fit because there was no master plan for the entire Fort Monroe area. He said the National Park Service told him to bid on the new vision. They also told Simmons they wanted to get something fast, so it wasn’t vacant for long.

“I even asked ‘can we stay in the new RFP process, so we can maintain these events.’ We were told no,” he said.

Despite being told no, Simmons said he doesn’t come out without a fight.

“We can’t just be tossed aside. We ran a good company that has a ton of support. Obviously people want us here, so if there was a valid reason for us to leave, let me know, but nobody told me one,” Simmons said.

He is not alone in the fight. There is a online petition that more than 2,300 people have signed on to keep the Paradise Ocean Club in North Beach.

“It’s been great because I don’t feel like fighting alone. I’m not going to let that down. I have 200 employees here every summer,” Simmons said.

But if there is no resolution between National Park Service and Paradise Ocean Club soon, the club will close.

“The reality is that the only way not to follow through is to not come to an agreement on the lease. We only had a few changes that were easy changes, so it was going to be easily agreed,” he said.

The possible closure of the Ocean Club brings to mind Tiffany Bumbrey.

“It’s sad because it’s just a comfortable, welcoming family. Everyone gets along. Have a good time,” she said. “At the same time, you think this will be my last time here.”

10 On Your Side has contacted the National Park Service about their decision to close Paradise Ocean Club. We haven’t had a response.