Hosting millions of tourists in a beach town takes work. It begins before the sun rises and continues long after it sets. Even with staffing challenges this summer, Virginia Beach's hospitality industry is determined to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic. Rolling out the welcome mat is the key to its success. 
Under a dark sky, crews comb the beach, erasing yesterday’s trash to start a new day with a clean slate. The shoreline awakens, and lifeguards climb onto their stands. It’s all hands on deck to fulfill the wants and needs of tourists. Hotel housekeepers strip the beds. Shop managers restock the beach umbrellas and chairs. 
Then, as another summer day winds down, restaurants and bars prep for the crowds. The city’s peacekeepers gear up for a busy evening in the 40-block resort area. As night falls over the beach again, the clock resets.
Photos by Trent Sprague with writing by Stacy Parker for The Virginian-Pilot.

A City of Virginia Beach tractor tows a beach cleaner along the Oceanfront before sunrise on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. “This time of year there’s no slowing down,” Assistant Superintendent Mitch St. Clair, who has been with Public Works for 18 years, said as the sun comes into view on the horizon.

Steve Lelocki sweeps underneath a bench at the Oceanfront in the morning hours of Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Lelocki is a member of the Public Works team which cleans the Boardwalk each morning by sweeping trash and sand into trash cans.

John Kelly drops off umbrellas at lifeguard stands along the Oceanfront on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. The daily umbrella drop is vital to keeping the lifeguards of the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service out of the harsh oceanfront sun and stay ready to help individuals in trouble at the Oceanfront.

Lifeguards with the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service leave the VBLS headquarters after receiving their stand assignments for Friday, July 16, 2021. When assigned a stand, each lifeguard picks out a first aid kit and rescue buoy before making the short trip down Virginia Beach Boulevard for the 9:30 a.m. whistle blow.

Rob Morse, of Reinhart Food Service, delivers supplies to Mosaic Cafe on Friday, July, 23, 2021. In the mid-morning hours on Fridays, a convoy of trucks can be seen along Atlantic Ave restocking bars and stores prior to the weekend.

Salinas Reye Raquel resets a room between guests at DoubleTree Virginia Beach on Friday, July 23, 2021. In the few hours between checkout and arrival, Raquel and other housekeepers must reset many of the DoubleTree's 292 rooms in a highly orchestrated dance between the housekeepers, laundry facilities and front desk staff to ensure everything is ready when visitors swipe into their rooms.

Stanley Stephenson chops limes prior to opening Sandbar Pizza and Grill on Friday, July 23, 2021. In just a few hours, the bar will be packed with visitors, some with a freshly sliced lemon on the lip of their drink.

Meredith Woods, a server at Rudee's Restaurant & Cabana Bar in Virginia Beach, Va, runs a plate out to a customer on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.

The Virginia Beach Mounted Police start their nightly patrol of the Oceanfront on Thursday, July 29, 2021. After sunset, the Oceanfront becomes party central for Hampton Roads, with Mounted Police high-atop their horses between Thursday and Saturday to engage with the community and control the crowds as bars close. “We can clear all of Atlantic Avenue with 10 horses,” Master Police Officer Joel Gough said.