Like a summer sun rising above the Atlantic Ocean, the large yellow umbrella atop the concession building at Delaware Seashore State Parks concession stand signals a fresh start.
The umbrella is the signature piece of the new Big Chill Beach Club; it sits atop the venue’s glass-enclosed eating area. That area is surrounded by a large deck, where diners can enjoy 360-degree views encompassing the ocean, the Indian River Inlet Bridge and the Indian River Bay.
Those who would rather keep their feet in the sand can do so by taking their food back to the beach or by sitting at tables in the sand at the new eatery.
A partnership between Delaware State Parks and La Vida Hospitality Group, the Big Chill Beach Club brings to the venture the group’s experience with its other projects, Crooked Hammock Brewery, Restaurant & Backyard Beer Garden; Fork+Flask at Nage; Taco Reho food truck; and the original Big Chill Cantina.
State officials, including Gov. John Carney, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Shawn Garvin and state Director of Tourism Linda Parkowski recently gathered with La Vida partners at the newest Big Chill location to celebrate the partnership and the upcoming opening of the Big Chill Beach Club.
“Big Chill Beach Club is an example of how visitors to the state can benefit from the entrepreneurial business leaders here in Delaware,” Parkowski said.
La Vida partner Josh Grapski added, “This unique venue, with its incredible views, will be a wonderful amenity for the park.”
Grapski told the Coastal Point that the project was born more than a year ago, after La Vida answered a call for bids for a project, in partnership with the State, to bring a unique eatery to the state park’s beachfront.
He said the company had been looking for a beachfront spot, but nothing seemed available until the state parks project came up.
“We kind of jumped into their process,” he said.
Grapski said he and his partners came to understand and appreciate the concerns voiced by residents about the facility’s environmental potential impact in the state park, and they came to understand why certain processes are needed for state-related projects.
“I understand, legally, that the parks need to be considerate of certain things,” he said. “I think of it as all positive.”
The resulting facility includes the 4,600-square-foot rooftop area, with its enclosed area under the umbrella and an adjacent deck, as well as a 4,400-square-foot tented area and numerous tables in the sand.
Construction of the beachfront project presented some weather-related challenges, Grapski said, as the company scurried to ready the location in the midst of several days of rain. Despite the rain and other challenges, he said he hopes to have a “soft opening” over Memorial Day weekend, with their official opening set for June 2.
The Big Chill will employ at least 40 to 50 people, Grapski said, and possibly more by the time July 4 rolls around.
Grapski said he expects weather, and its effect on the beach area — as well as the venue’s exposure to potentially extreme elements — to be an interesting factor for the staff at the new venture.
“It’s going to be a learning experience,” he said.
The signature umbrella structure, with its 36-foot span, was imported from Austria for the project and is rated to withstand winds of up to 100 mph, according to Grapski. Full restaurant and bar service will be available there.
By June, the partners intend to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu will range from fresh seafood, including an oyster bar, to boardwalk-inspired burgers and fries, as well as tacos and burritos.
The event pavilion also offers views of the waterfront and bridge, with space for sit-down dinners for up to 160 people, or for parties, meetings or other events for up to 200 people. Catering available from La Vida Hospitality will provide menus for any event, from casual parties to formal weddings.
“This is welcome news for the growing number of couples who want to get married at the beach and have their reception just steps away,” said Grapski.
Beachgoers who wish to purchase takeout fare will find it available at the previously existing concession stand underneath the new deck structure. A fire pit will also be located in the sandy area near the building.
While the “vibe” at the new Big Chill location will be similar to that of the Big Chill Surf Cantina, Grapski said the inlet location will be more family-friendly, compared to 21-and-older appeal of the Rehoboth Beach Big Chill.
State park fees will be in effect for entrance to the Beach Club; park pass holders may park free of charge. The facility is handicapped accessible, by way of a lift apparatus that goes to the rooftop deck area, Grapski said.
Find out more about the Big Chill Beach Club online at www.bigchillbeachclub.com or call (302) 402-5300.