A lot happened on St. John in 2013, so let’s take a trip down ole’ memory lane to see which stories stood out among the rest.
The first major story of the year happened within moments of the calendar switching over to 2013 when we all learned that the 13.8-acre Maho Bay parcel had been sold to a mysterious buyer. “Nobody Knows Nothin‘” were the words Frank Barnako used to describe the deal which remained a secret for a good part of the year. All we did know at the time was that Stanley Selengut was preparing to close Maho Bay Camps after 37 years of operation and set May 15 as the official closing date.
But on a positive note, we did in January learn that villa sales for 2012 were the highest in five years. The average price of a villa sold in 2012 was about $1.2 million. That number was increased a bit due to the impressive sale of a six bedroom Peter Bay villa. That home alone sold for $8.45. Wouldn’t it be nice folks, wouldn’t it be nice.
February was a pretty chill month with not too much happening. High season was in full swing and the weather was glorious as usual. The highlight of the month occurred on February 23 when the 17th annual 8 Tuff Miles race rolled through town. David Riddle, a 31-year-old from Cincinnati, took the top spot finishing the 8.3 mile course in 45 minutes and 46 seconds. Talk about impressive.
We were stunned in March when we all heard that not only was the Beach Bar sold, but Woody’s was too. That sale definitely made us turn our heads. But alas, it was true, Todd and Chad decided to sell the popular watering hole “with heavy hearts,” according to their Facebook page. Little did we know at the time that Todd and his wife Christy had something cool coming along just around the corner … literally.
An eco-resort was approved over in Coral Bay back in March, although no progress has been made thus far on that front. And lastly, a new House Hunters International episode debuted – Chez Shell over in Great Cruz Bay – and this time, they left the scenes of monkeys and horses on the beach on the cutting room floor. (Please give me a like if you know what I’m talking about.)
In April, we learned that Kenny Chesney was planning to donate a portion of the sales from his latest album Life on a Rock to the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park. We also got our first listen to his new CD, which can be described as a love song to St. John. There isn’t a bad song on the album and if you haven’t bought it yet, we highly suggest you do. You gotta love Kenny. That guy’s a class act.
Some of us got a little ticked off later in the month when we learned that the powers that be had begun charging for parking at Wharfside. Long gone were the days of endless circling in an effort to grab a free spot. Parking now costs $3 an hour and as much as we hate to see free parking go, it hasn’t been that bad.
Our hearts here at News of St. John broke a little bit in April when a fire swept through Cafe Roma. It turns out something electrical was to blame. Something good came of this tragedy, however, when stories started to spread about the local businesses who quickly sprang into action, trying to douse the fire themselves in an attempt to save Roma. Kudos to all of you.
The month came to a close with Frank Barnako’s announcement that his days at the helm of News of St. John were nearing an end. Frank decided to offer the business for sale, which piqued the curiosity of one girl you’ve all come to know.
After months of rumors swirling about chickens being shot in front of patrons and people passing out in the dining room, the folks at the Donkey Diner decided to call it quits. Citing an off-island medical emergency, the owners listed the business for sale at $299k. The price was lowered to $50k, according to a post on their Facebook page, and as of today – well, we’re not quite sure what’s going on over there. We do know that it’s no longer listed in the MLS from what we see.
The month of May came to a close with Frank Barnako officially announcing his retirement from News of St. John on May 30. I took the reins on May 31 and have been having a blast ever since.
We tweaked things a bit in the beginning of June starting with the launch of News of St. John’s official Facebook page. Check us out of you haven’t already at www.Facebook.com/NewsofStJohn. We also launched a new daily feature – News of St. John’s Daily STJ image. This was our way of spreading the beauty that is St. John, Monday through Friday.
Early in the month, we also reported that someone was digging up the old Domino over in Coral Bay. The old fuel tanks were removed and the property was cleared. Nothing seems to be happening there since and the gas station in Cruz Bay remains the only one on the island for now.
A stretch of Centerline Road out near Coral Bay made headlines once again in June as it literally started crumbling before our eyes. Small band aids were put around it in the form of speed bumps and barriers, and repairs were promised to start. Well they never did. They’re supposedly going to start within the next week or so, but honestly, we’ll believe it when we see it.
House Hunters International returned to the island again in June to tape an episode about a couple searching for a home in Coral Bay. The episode has yet to air and details on an air date remain scarce. We’ll let you all know as soon as we know. I don’t know about you, but I love a good House Hunters episode.
Things took an ugly turn in July when we all learned that a property owner in Denis Bay had been accused of clearing and altering National Park land. It was a hot story and one that left people shaking their heads and voicing their opinions.
We also learned in July that Woody’s had one last well-known visitor before ownership changed hands. Kenny Chesney made a quick pit stop while filming his video for When I See This Bar. The video’s pretty cool and features a lot of familiar faces and places. Be sure to check that out too if you haven’t already.
Lastly, we had some big restaurant news back in July. ZoZo’s announced that it was ending its relationship with Gallows Point and was planning to move over to Caneel while Michael and Barbie Barry announced plans for a new restaurant at the old La Plancha location – Virgin Fire Bar & Grill.
In August, we learned that Todd and Christy Beaty (of Woody’s fame) were planning on opening a family friendly restaurant over at the recently closed JJ’s location. And from the few tidbits we knew at the time, we all knew it was going to be great.
We stayed on the Denis Bay story throughout August and showed our readers firsthand the damage that had been done to Park land, as well as the adjacent property owner’s land. This story was so huge that it was mentioned in the New York Daily News. We have to admit, that was pretty darn cool.
The super classy and super cute (sorry Mr. News of St. John!) Kenny Chesney wrapped up his No Shoes Nation tour and immediately flew to … where else but St. John. He let us all know by posting a series of pictures to his Facebook page. That guy’s got quite the life. Hey Kenny, can we be friends?
September marked the beginning of slow season, although big things were still happening on island. We first learned that Caneel had decided to part ways with the Rosewood Hotel Group, instead opting to be an independent boutique resort. We were also sad to hear the the Bones Rum store and bar just beside the ferry dock had closed its doors for good. We heard at the time that they were hunting for a new location, but nothing has popped up as of yet.
Now on to October … October was a big deal on the island. Two words: Government shutdown.
So the folks in Washington couldn’t make nice and agree on some things (that’s as political as we’ll ever get here) so a government shutdown went into effect. This in turn affected a huge part of St. John. Why, you ask? Well because the National Parks were closed as part of the shutdown and we all know that the majority of St. John is National Park. Government Shutdown: 1. St. John: 0.
But wait! Just like no one puts baby in the corner, no one shuts down St. John. There was a bit of controlled civil disobedience as people ignored the barriers at the beaches and removed the yellow tape that blocked the parking lots. But thankfully after six days, the National Park on St. John was reopened and things were mostly back in business.
We here at News of St. John shed another tear back in October as another one of our favorites burned to the ground. Pirate’s Bight over on Norman Island was completely destroyed in the early morning hours of October 1. They rebuilt a temporary bar and restaurant pretty quickly with operations resuming after less than two months. Phew.
Signs of high season began arriving in November as the annual trek of the megayachts began. The first sighting was Barry Diller’s impressive 305-foot sailing yacht – Eos – which sailed into town toward the end of the month. It was almost immediately followed by a sighting of Devid Geffen’s even more impressive yacht – The Rising Sun – which comes in at a whopping 453 feet. Again, wouldn’t it be nice folks. Wouldn’t it be nice.
The year wound down just as it started – with some pretty big news about Maho Bay. After sitting on the buyer’s identity for months, we finally decided to share with all of you the details we knew about the Maho Bay buyer. Prior to that, it was an open secret on the island that the buyer was Jon Stryker, a wealthy conservationist. Together we all hoped that what we heard was true – that Mr. Stryker would preserve the land and use it as a private residence. Only time will tell.
And again on the Maho front, we also learned earlier this month that the National Park acquired an additional 74 acres of land near Maho Bay bringing the entire land total acquired for that area to 225 acres. The 225-acre beach and the hillside above are the single largest land addition since Laurence Rockefeller’s generous land donation created the National Park back in 1956. What a great way to end the year.
So as one chapter closes, another one opens. Cliche? Yes. But oh so true. We can only wonder what 2014 will bring for our beloved St. John. I guess you’ll all have to stay tuned…