The very first thing you see when you pull up to the ferry dock on St. John is the stretch of shops and restaurants that line the beach in Cruz Bay. For decades, tourists and residents alike enjoyed this idyllic scene with its beautiful rainbow hues. Today, however, that scene has dramatically changed as seven large sailboats remain slammed against the heavily-damaged waterfront complex. We’ve received numerous emails and messages regarding the status of this area. Here is everything we currently know…
For starters, the waterfront complex is comprised of three separate parcels – 4A, 4B and 4C. The building that houses St. John Spice, Beach Bum, Freebird and Pig & Rooster is parcel 4C. The area where High Tide, The Dock, Verace, Vibe, Turquoise Turtle and Sotheby’s are is parcel 4B. And the area where Waterfront Bistro, Joe’s Rum Hut, The Beach Bar, The Parrot Club, The Bowery, Into the Blue, Now and Zen, Bamboo, Island Cork and Cruz Bay Clothing Company are is parcel 4A.
As of today, the majority of all three parcels is closed. Parcels 4B and 4C remain without power. The only business in this area that is currently open is Island Cork. It is located in parcel 4A, which is owned by Joe DeCourcy.
Parcel 4A, known as Wharfside Village, sustained a large amount of roof damage during Hurricane Irma which caused subsequent water damage throughout a majority of the businesses below. The mast of Dreamweaver – the sailboat that crashed into Joe’s Rum Hut – damaged the roof at Vista Mare (which is located directly above the Rum Hut). This caused additional water damage to the inside bar at the Rum Hut, which continues each time it rains. Three boats slammed into Waterfront Bistro, causing the roof to buckle in some areas. And while The Beach Bar came out unscathed in terms of boats, the bar was essential “pressure washed,” according to its owners, causing physical and electrical damage. The Parrot Club, located between Waterfront Bistro and Joe’s Rum Hut, had several inches of standing water following Irma and was completely destroyed. Finally, the majority of the residences and AirBNBs located on the second floor of Wharfside were completely destroyed due flooding which occurred when the buildings lost portions, if not all, of the roof.
You can see the areas that had roof damage in the image below, which was taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration roughly one week after Irma.
As we mentioned earlier, seven boats remain on the beach in Cruz Bay. One boat that washed up near the ferry dock was removed with the help of the Love for Love City Foundation. They were able to remove the boat as its owner signed her over to the organization and because it was made from wood, allowing the foundation to cut it up into pieces. The other boats are made of fiberglass, so removing them is far more difficult.
I spoke with the Coast Guard Wednesday regarding the removal of the boats, and it sounds like it will be a lengthy process. All of the beached vessels have been tagged, requesting information of each owner. The Coast Guard, who is working in partnership with DPNR, is attempting to contact the owners to see if they would like to keep or abandon the boats. Once they obtain that information, they will decide the best way to remove the vessel while causing the least amount of impact to the environment. For some, they may use a crane to lift a vessel and return it to the water. For those that are heavily damaged, they may put it on a barge and bring it to a staging point. For others, they may try to float it out. Each vessel will be treated differently depending on its situation, the Coast Guard said.
I also spoke at length yesterday with Joe DeCourcy, the owner of parcel 4A. He said that he is working diligently to rebuild Wharfside, although he does not have a specific timeline on when it will reopen.
“We sustained a ton of damage,” Joe said. “The fact of the matter is that we were hit by two category five hurricanes. We received wind damage, rain damage, salt damage. (We’ve been told that the waves went over Joe’s Rum Hut and The Beach Bar.) I’m not interested in rushing to complete something that’s mediocre. It doesn’t help anything. It doesn’t help my tenants. It doesn’t help me. It doesn’t help the public. So I’m going to take my time to make sure that we plan properly and that we rebuild efficiently so we can sustain any future storm. I want to make sure we don’t have this type of damage ever again.”
Joe pointed out that Wharfside was built back in 1982 and that code compliance has changed dramatically since. So when the businesses or residences sustained water damage and the sheetrock was removed as part of remediation, it revealed the wiring and plumbing in many areas. That wire and plumbing, Joe said, is outdated and needs to be brought up to code.
So the roof needs to be repaired, plumbing and electrical need to be brought up to code, Joe’s Rum Hut needs to be rebuilt, The Beach Bar needs to be rebuilt, The Parrot Club needs to be rebuilt, the sailboats need to be removed… It’s going to take time.
The upside is that Wharfside will be back better than ever when it does reopen, Joe said. He began making repairs to the property during 2016 and had been continuing to do so prior to the storms. They include new tile throughout, resurfacing the walls with shiplap siding, reconfiguring some of the business spaces and adding additional restrooms for the restaurants. (Thank goodness for additional restrooms!)
“I understand that this is a displacement,” Joe said. “It’s sad. It’s sad for all of us. The last thing I want right now is for Wharfside to be closed. But we have to be smart with this and we have to think about the big picture. I want to look at this longterm, not a short fix. We need to look longterm for the community.”
We also chatted with Kelli Thomas, owner of High Tide, yesterday. She stated that they do plan to reopen, but that date has yet to be determined.
We will keep you all updated on this folks.