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30 years since Virginia Beach’s Peppermint Beach Club closed, regulars still call it a “magnet”

The original Peppermint Beach Club hosted its last show in 1994. (Photo from Virginia Beach historic marker)
The original Peppermint Beach Club hosted its last show in 1994. (Photo from Virginia Beach historic marker)

 Thirty years ago the curtain came down on the Peppermint Beach Club at Virginia Beach’s Oceanfront.

The beloved local venue was known by just one name: the Peppermint.  

“There was a sense of freedom  You could come in right off the beach,” said Bobbie Fisher, a Norfolk resident who used to frequent the club.

“Nobody looked at anybody judgmentally,” Fisher said. “Everybody was there for one thing –  to listen to music, to dance … to make a friend or two. The vibe was fun, celebration, [like] ‘Isn’t this a great place ... and aren’t we all lucky to be here?’”

The Peppermint opened in the 1920s when Virginia Beach was a sleepy beach resort town. Still, the small venue at 15th Street booked legends like Fats Domino and Ray Charles.

As Virginia Beach began to grow, so did the Peppermint’s reputation. By the late 1960s, a local band made the Peppermint one of the hottest venues in the region.

Bill Deal and The Rhondels of Virginia Beach became the Peppermint house band in 1965 and soon lines stretched out the door. 

Don Quisenberry was a Rhondel.

“The crowds were always huge … they would close from 6 to 7 and the line would be two blocks long and they’d come in and we’d just play and they danced and it was a lot of fun.”

The dancing was one of the real lures of the Peppermint, but it was also a place for patrons to listen to emerging bands.

And, according to Bob Christie who was a high schooler in Norfolk in the 1960s, the Peppermint was a nonstop party.

“It was a friendly environment,” he said. “I don’t remember any issues coming up there other than just a lot of happy sounds and great music.”

The Peppermint limped on through the 1980s, with some national actions stopping there, but the Beach was changing. 

By 1990, plans to build the Virginia Beach amphitheater emerged and other venues that stood with the Peppermint were disappearing. 

The last performance at the Peppermint was in 1994 and in 1995, the original building was razed and became a parking lot.

“The structure at 15th Street and Atlantic Avenue was the last of the resort's shingle-style buildings to remain standing on a shoreline dominated in the early 1900s by cottages and cottage inns,” a story in the Beacon at the time read.

“Long a watering hole for the fun-loving old and young, the Peppermint once offered premier national musical entertainment such as Fats Domino, Roy Orbison and Joey D and the Starlighters.

In recent years it catered to largely local bands and offered beer, soft drinks and snacks to summertime strollers on the Boardwalk outside its back door.”

The Peppermint Beach Club reopened a few blocks away in a different building a few years later, hosting alternative and punk shows in the early 2000s for a few years before closing.

Christie, the regular in his high school days, said the Peppermint was like a “magnet.”  

“I do think that today if the Peppermint was still there it would be  an  older scene, but you’d have people just enjoying the atmosphere and a destination to go to.”

The world changes fast.

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