An Online Blog About the Daily Happenings of St. John, USVI
Hi! I’m Hillary Bonner. I’ve been on St. John for 8 years and have worn A LOT of hats in my time on island. Most of us do tho…A lot of times island life calls for ingenuity, flexibility and resiliency. And those things are what I kind of LOVE about the people in our Love City Community.
Between boat days and day hikes and happy hours with so many happy faces, you may have seen me behind the bar at Asolare, Zozo’s, The Terrace or Drink (once upon a time, Motu) over the years. But after Hurricane Irma, I jumped from behind the bar into non-profit work. That desk job made me remember that, way back when, I DID go to college and I might have been letting some of those skill sets get a BIT rusty. My degree is in Journalism and Public Relations. When asked if I ever used it, my programmed response was, “Bar tending IS relating to the public.”
But, back to the desk job…I was doing everything. Which is, again, what you do in a small office on an island. Events, marketing, handling in-kind donations, unloading containers, attempting to figure out logistics I didn’t even know how to spell, community meetings, board meetings, FEMA meetings. All of the meetings.
One day, I decided that there were aspects I loved. And aspects…Well, not so much. So I started my own thing, supporting local small businesses and non-profits in the realm of design, marketing and events (specifically music related events…you’ll hear a lot about music from me). I have a bleeding heart for the small yet ambitious non-profits on St. John. And an overwhelming amount of respect for the small business owners who made their ideas take flight in a place where it’s very difficult to do so!
I love life here on St. John. The highs are the highest and the lows are not so low as they can be in other places. The accessibility to Mother Nature on this little slice of perfection is unparalleled. She’s all around us all of the time. You can watch the phases of the moon, the rotation of the planets, the shifting of the sunset and the tides. Every damn day. Mother Nature’s restless spirit reflects the transient nature of the people here as well. That was hard for me at first. The coming and the going. But now, I like the fact that I will rarely visit a place that I don’t have a place to stay and a friend to catch up with from St. John.
So, now, here I am (using my degree, Ma!). Contributing to a long standing super positive blog. Here I feel like I’m in a position to use my voice to entertain and inform you about the community and island that I love so much.
I’m grateful for this opportunity and am ALWAYS open to story ideas! Let me know what, where or who you want to hear about!
The passenger ferry has expanded their service as of today!
Notice the weekday service is a bit more “back to normal” than the weekends, but they are still making their last trip to Red Hook from Cruz Bay at 8PM instead of Midnight. If you’re coming in on a later flight, make sure to make other arrangements! We posted some guidance about private transportation as well as the Crown Bay ferry schedule last week.
We will keep you up to date about the schedules as they evolve!
Live Music is Back! And here’s who is doing what this week>>>>
We are slowly rolling our way back into a regular momentum here on St. John. I went out for take-out last night and it was great seeing one of my favorite restaurants as full as they could be by current capacity restrictions. Employees busy and smiling behind their masks. Unfamiliar faces at tables and the bar. Tourism has trickled back in. And, as scary as moving forward may seem, it was good to see my friends behind a busy bar again!
Live music was one of the very first things to be restricted. And that’s reasonable. People tend to gather and stay in places longer when there is live entertainment. Just prior to the stay at home orders, we had VI Jam Fest, several nationally touring acts at different venues around St. John, St. Thomas Carnival around the corner. Bars and restaurants were testing the live music game for the first time. Most of the long-standing ones were doing seven days a week with a lot of really fun things on the horizon. And then, just like everything else, it stopped dead in its tracks.
Well, the first to stop and the last to get started. Thank you Governor Bryan for bringing live music back! Beginning on Monday June 8, 2020, in the Virgin Islands, the show can go on! With restrictions…
From the Office of the Governor – Issued and Effective on June 1, 2020:
No live bands or DJ’s in open public areas
Event centers and banquet halls must comply with mass gathering mandates of less than 50 people or 50% of their occupancy capacity (Whatever is less)
No live music or DJ’s permitted after 12 midnight
Live band shall be set up with space of ten (10) feet between the band and patrons using social distancing principles.
A clear barrier between live music and patrons may be considered but is not required.
Now that we all know the expectations and regulations, who is doing what?
A few of the staples for live music are taking their time on figuring out how to manage performances with the current regulations. Once again, I want to remind you that the government will shut down and/or fine these businesses if they are caught being non-compliant so, let’s bear with ALL of small businesses while we get through the beginnings of this blue phase.
But, a couple of our favorite venues are jumping right back in! The following restaurants have scheduled performances, but be sure to check their Facebook pages and websites for additional updates.
Miss Lucy’s – Thursday night open mic starts again on June 25th. Every Thursday at 5:30-?
Lovango Rum Bar – Evening and Sunset music regularly beginning this weekend.
Cruz Bay Landing – Starting up this week 6-9PM
Fridays – IslandGirlMusic- Erin Hart
Saturdays – Artist TBA
Sundays – Pam and Broheem (Start date on the Sunday shows TBD)
The Virgin Islands National Park Service issued a release on June 3 that gets us a bit closer to that new normal we are all dreaming of.
Today, June 6, the NPS reopens the park-maintained facilities at the following locations:
Trunk Bay – Restrooms and Showers – Entry fees remain waived for the meantime
Hawksnest Bay- Restrooms and Changing Rooms
Restrooms and/or Porta Johns at Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay, Francis Bay, Salt Pond Bay, Lameshur and Annaberg.
Although, the concessions at Trunk and Cinnamon remain closed, all park waters, beaches and trails are OPEN. The park resumes trash pick-up today as well and replaced the garbage receptacles on the beaches earlier this week. As always, however, pack-in, pack-out is highly encouraged as the collection areas are not designed for high volume use.
On April 6, the VI government closed the territory owned beaches and the NPS followed their lead almost immediately. The beaches and trails were re-opened on April 20, but the above facilities, as well as the picnic pavilions, remained closed. The picnic areas are not mentioned in the NPS release from June 3.
A little factoid for those of you who don’t know (I know, many do, but bear with me): The majority of the St. John beaches are operated and maintained by the National Park Service. BUT, the majority of the beaches and trails on the other Virgin Islands are owned by the territory. A lot of people were confused when the Department of Parks and Natural Resources (DPNR) released their beach water testing results and none of the popular STJ beaches were listed (They tested Oppenheimer, Cruz Bay, Frank Bay, Great Cruz Bay and Johnson Bay). Follow Friends of the VI National Park and Virgin Islands National Park to stay up to date on St. John specific beach info and water testing results!
The Cruz Bay Visitor center also closed its doors in April and will remain closed for the time being with “public and employee health in mind.”
Social distancing and face coverings are still highly encouraged and hand sanitizer in your beach bag is never a bad idea!
“We have felt the love from local residents who have kept park beaches, trails and public spaces safe and clean over the past two months,” says Nigel Fields, park superintendent. “Now as the USVI begins to open the doors to broader tourism, we want everyone to remain safe while enjoying the park’s many resources.”
I hope you all have a GREAT weekend! Thank you for all of the positive feedback and support this week. Jenn’s are definitely a big pair of flip-flops to fill and there’s a lot to learn in the process. —Speaking of Jenn, you’ll be hearing from her tomorrow!
On Saturday morning at 9am, there will be a Black Lives Matter “Protest and Memorial” in Cruz Bay. The Facebook event states “This protest is to stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters in the US. We are speaking up and speaking out against racially motivated crimes and hate against African American communities.”
The gathering will begin with nine minutes of silence in the field near the National Park Dock.
The organizer, Jalayne Jones, urges participants to wear their masks and bring sunscreen and water. The temperature is rising as we enter hurricane season here on St. John. But we are confident everyone will keep their cool and come together in a peaceful way this weekend. “I want to make sure this is peaceful,” she stressed. “Absolutely peaceful.”
Jalayne has worked, with the support of her long time employers at Skinny Legs, to ensure everything is set for Saturday’s gathering. Skinny Legs, like many other St. John businesses, will be opening a little later in the day so their staff is able to attend if they choose to do so.
The National Park Service will be opening their restrooms to the public for the first time since April from 9AM-3PM that day. She has spoken with the VI Department of Health and wants to stress to everyone that masks are not optional and keeping the crowd as distanced from one another as possible is important as well. Irie Pops has volunteered free water at their storefront across the street from the NPS dock throughout the morning.
Earlier this week, the Virgin Islands Police Department delivered an emotional message via video on their Facebook page. In reference to George Floyd’s death, St. Croix police chief Sydney Elscoe said, “The video demonstrates a long-term culture of wrongdoing practiced by some members of that agency.” And it reached a level in which the officers felt comfortable with their actions. “These actions are clearly excessive and cannot be justified,“ he concluded.
With a nod to the peaceful protests being organized on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, the police chief extends VIPD’s support of the rights of citizens to gather in memorial and peaceful demonstration.
Jalayne has also spoken directly to VIPD on St. John and they ensured that they would be at the gathering in support and to ensure everything goes smoothly. There are no roadblocks arranged so, if you are in the Cruz Bay area Saturday morning, please avoid driving through town. If you must, please be aware of the event going on that may cause some delays.
If you are in town for the walk tomorrow, please consider stopping by some locally owned businesses for lunch! Uncle Joe’s BBQ, located across from the Post Office has amazing BBQ chicken and ribs with sides!
OR, grab yourself a frozen treat from Philomen at Cool Desires! She will be making up some fresh fruit smoothies after she participates in the peaceful protest. She is directly across from the National Park Dock and next to Margarita Phil’s! Stay safe and hydrated tomorrow everyone!
In our first edition of “Local Livin’,’” Ital Delroy Anthony tells the story of his ancestral family on St. John and his passion for the Afro-Caribbean culture and the land of his people.
If you have ever visited Salt Pond Bay on St. John’s south eastern shore, you may have bumped into a vivacious personality selling his wares just past the parking lot entrance. In my first week on-island in 2012, I took the bus to Salt Pond on and crossed paths with Ital in this exact location.
I remember vividly the intensity and passion with which he spoke about the hand-crafted maracas made out of Calabash, jewelry, salves and decor that he boasted on his modest table under an EZ-up. Hand-made wind chimes offering a calming background music to the conversation.
In the years to come, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Ital during his semi-regular presentations about the benefits and uses of local flora, his pop-up shop in the park during events and, eventually, booking him to play music with his trio, the Echo People. To say it has been a pleasure to work with this man of vast local knowledge and many talents is an exaggerated understatement. So, when I thought about who we should feature for this first profile story, he immediately came to mind.
Ital was born on St. Thomas in 1961 to a sixth generation St. Johnian mother. His mother’s ancestors were brought into slavery from Ghana during the Denmark occupation of the Danish West Indies, now the US Virgin Islands. Like many other ancestral St. John families, they were here through decades of slavery, the slave revolt of 1733, the emancipation of slaves in the territory in 1848 and the eventual $25 million US purchase of the territory in March of 1917.
St John is OPEN!!! What does that mean and how can you best protect yourself and the community while visiting your favorite little Caribbean island? Jenn provided a comprehensive update on the reopening last week and we wanted to circle back around with some social distancing tips and tricks for getting to and getting settled on St. John.
First—We are so excited and happy to be welcoming our visitors back to Love City. It has been a scary time for both public and personal safety and for the economy for the past few months. On St. John, the economic woes for small businesses are compounded as we transition from Stay at Home>Safer at Home>Open Doors/a brief stint of tourism> (You guessed it!) Hurricane season.
Second, in an effort to keep our community (and our visitors!) safe and happy and healthy, we have compiled the following information in order for you to understand the regulations for small businesses and the community and also take advantage of some services that will help you to maintain minimal contact and maximize your vacation time!
So, what should you expect at the airport? Before disembarking your flight in paradise, you will likely hear a slightly different kind of “safety” talk from your flight crew. All arriving passengers to the USVI will be subject to COVID-19 related screening and will be required to wear a mask or facial covering upon exiting the aircraft. Thermal temperature scanners are being installed at airports and seaports and everyone, resident or visitor, will be required to pass through a temperature screening checkpoint and fill out a “Traveler Screening Questionnaire.”
No temperature, no problem. You’re free to go with a VI Department of Health “Health Alert Card.” If you register a temperature, certain protocol will be followed as outlined below:
Now you are cleared through COVID screening and off to enjoy your trip. The government is not mandating a 14-day quarantine. BUT they are asking visitors to minimize contact and monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days. If you have traveled to St. John in the past, you know that a crowded taxi and then a semi-crowded ferry are likely involved. So how do you handle this and practice these recommended measures at the same time?
Regular taxi service from the airport to both the Crown Bay andRed Hook ferry docks is operational with restrictions. Cabs can only operate at 50% capacity and, as with ALL commercial entities in the territory (bars and restaurants exempt while you are consuming your deliciousness!), masks or facial coverings are required.
As of now, the people ferry service from Red Hook to Cruz Bay is operating on a limited schedule (see below) without capacity restrictions. The Inter Island Boat Services ferry plans to resume service from Crown Bay to Cruz Bay mid-June, leaving Cruz Bay at 11am and Crown Bay at either 3:30 or 5:30. They are awaiting flight information as to which time will be scheduled. Again, for any public transportation, masks are required.
If being in an enclosed space with a lot of people sounds a bit overwhelming after already traveling all day, you’ve got options! There are plenty of private transportation services to get you here! Let’s start with getting you out of the airport. There are several private taxis on St. Thomas that you can arrange ahead of time and simply provide the driver with your flight information. Private taxis generally run $90 for up to five people to either of the seaports from the airport.
Now, what about water travel? As stated above, the ferries could potentially be a bit crowded, masks are required, etc. Also, please keep in mind that a lot of locals use the ferry for public transit to and from work, the hospital, running errands, etc. If you are traveling from a “hot zone,” please be mindful that your decision to use private transportation may be more to protect others!
A lot of the private charter boats have been low on bookings for obvious reasons and are being flexible in offering private water taxi services from Red Hook to Cruz Bay. Some may offer transport from Crown Bay, but remember, the water on the south side of St. Thomas can be a bit choppy! These options may make financial sense for a family of four or more but may be a bit on the steep side for solo or couple travelers. If you have a favorite charter captain or boat you have used in the past, give them a call! They will be happy to hear from you and extremely grateful for the work!
So, now…you’re HERE! On St. John. Finally! What’s next? Well, if you want to continue with private transportation, check first with your villa or accommodations. Many of them will have a driver or staff member on hand that can arrange these services for you. If your accommodations do not offer transportation services, simply ask them for their preferred taxi driver’s phone number and call them directly to arrange pick up ahead of time at your arrival location. Pick up location will be, obviously, the ferry dock if you stick to the ferry. The National Park Dock will likely be your final destination if you opt for a private boat.
I have often said, throughout this ordeal, that going to the grocery store is the most daunting part of my week. There have been days that I have pulled into the parking lot, saw that it was full and simply went home! As you know, we don’t have big box stores here on St. John and our markets can get crowded VERY quickly. Currently, I find the unavoidable invasion of personal space a bit uncomfortable. Also, (and most importantly!) more people in the store could jeopardize the health safety of our elderly community members who may not have an option outside of shopping for themselves.
I do want to add that the staff at ALL of St. John’s grocery retailers have been professional and courteous and the shelves have remained well stocked over the past two months. YES, we have even kept toilet paper on the shelves LOL.
There are several options for you to help cut down on traffic at the stores by arranging for provisioning services to do your immediate shopping for you. Not only is this a relatively inexpensive luxury for you, but it also helps to ease the impact on the local community in our tiny stores! Imagine being exhausted from traveling ALL day and arriving to find a pre-stocked refrigerator and pantry complete with the fixings for your favorite island cocktail!
Most provisioning services add a percentage of costs and a gratuity. Others do a flat rate based on the delivery location. Some villas and higher end lodging will offer this service as an add-on. My recommendation is to first contact your accommodations to see if they recommend someone or provide this service. If not, please see the list below for possible options!
Carolyn’s Caribbean Concierge
You Buy and We Fly VI
Now, you’re on St. John, taking in the view with a drink in hand and snacks in front of you. You have made contact on the ground with MAYBE four people outside of your travel companions along the way. After you enjoy the sunset this evening, you can venture out in the morning and dip your toes in the sand at whatever beach looks most secluded.
Social distancing doesn’t have to be stressful…I’m actually a bit jealous of all of you right now. 🙂
For those of you who are not on island during these times, there is a new way for you to bring the sights, sounds and people of St. John into your living room twice a week! Silver linings in the midst of a pandemic.
As you know, when the stay at home order began at the end of March, it left most people in the ranks of the unemployed (or underemployed). Musicians are not exempt from these unfortunate circumstances. The music industry, like the majority of the economy, has been rocked (pun intended) by this shut down. But, musicians of all genres and levels of stardom all over the world have developed creative ways of sharing their magic. And some of our St. John musicians are resiliently plowing through this pandemic in similar ways.
Have you ever been to the Thursday night open mics at Miss Lucy’s in Coral Bay? This long standing open mic has changed location several times….Most recently it was on Thursday nights at Pickles in Paradise. If you have been lucky enough to happen upon this weekly event over the years, you know St. John has some unique and musically talented characters in attendance!
The Pickles open mic grew into something really powerful post Irma recalls Lauren Jones Magnie, hostess of the open mic and amazing songstress of St. John. “People needed a reason to let loose. To be together. To enjoy life.”
And, in another difficult time, music is bringing artists together again. This time, in a virtual platform that lets everyone…on or off island…participate in and appreciate the collaboration.
Lauren started a virtual open mic that airs via Facebook on Thursday nights at 5:30-ISH. She coordinates the ENTIRE thing…collecting and editing the videos, coordinating the artists and even creating a virtual dance floor for the weekly event with dancers submitting their videos from afar for inclusion. Featuring the talents of many St. John residents, this weekly video has become a creative outlet for those performing and a St. John fix for those watching from home.
Tune in on Thursday evenings on Lauren and her husband Bo’s facebook page or tune in now to check out the archived performances. Lauren wanted to give some love to the regular contributors who have helped to build this amazing weekly event. Her husband Bo Magnie, Otis Magnie, John Magnie, Pam and Broheem, Laz Liburd, Charlie, Rich Greengold, Joy, Ken Betts, Ital, Kerrin Buckley, Johnny B and Channing are just a few of the faces you will find familiar throughout these streams.
A few highlights I’d recommend are
ELENA!!! Lauren and Bo’s daughter is ten years old and performs her original music with a fire inside her little soul! –Check out the May 21 (open mic #7) for her performance of her original song “If I Could” with her grandfather
Allegra Miles- finalist in “The Voice” submitted a video for the May 7 episode!
May 14 – Pamela Leverett-Love and Broheem on the Sax with Lauren and Bo!
IslandGirlMusic- Erin Hart is another ambitious STJ based musician who has taken her talents to to the world wide web. If you have ever wandered through the park in Cruz Bay on a Friday evening, you may have had the pleasure of hearing the sweet island tunes of Erin Hart ringing through the courtyard from Cruz Bay Landing. Erin has played Friday nights in Cruz Bay for the past ten years, beginning at Rhumb Lines and began her weekly stint at the Landing in 2018. When live music was cancelled everywhere this spring, she continued this tradition with a Friday Night Sunset Concert Series from her deck overlooking Cruz Bay and St. Thomas.
Both Erin and Lauren reported overwhelming responses from their online followings. Erin said “I didn’t anticipate that the shows were going to be as impactful to the people watching as they were to me. It gave us all something to look forward to. For an hour and a half every Friday we could tune out the chaos together and just soak in some good feeling music and a beautiful St. John sunset.”
You can tune in for a private living room concert with a LIVE St. John sunset every Friday night at 5:15 on her facebook page. If you need a Love City fix now, the performances are archived on her new feed as well!
Both of these lovely ladies plan to continue these virtual traditions at least until the live music ban (what is actually happening right now?) is lifted.
I hope that you can find a little time to tune in and enjoy a slice of St. John in your living room this week. The Governor’s recent orders have stated that while he is relaxing the social distancing protocol for bars and restaurants, live music will still not be permitted quite yet. So we will be enjoying these streams right along with you.
We generally update you on seasonally scheduled closings a bit closer to the peak hurricane season months. In light of the reopening of St. John to tourism, and A LOT of variations as to what business owners are deciding to do, we thought this might be a good time to clue you in as to what your restaurant options are this month!
We are excited to say that MANY of your favorite restaurants are bouncing back immediately! The majority are operating with full service and full menus seven days a week. Some, however, are sticking to take-out for now while others are postponing the announcement of a reopening date until we see how this goes. This list was updated as of June 1st, but be sure to check their websites or social media pages for updates as we move through this next transition together!
Also, please keep in mind when visiting your favorite Love City establishments that all businesses are required to follow current VI Social Distancing protocol. Jenn posted a great recap on the overall rules for the territory last week. We are currently in Phase Blue – Open Doors.
To recap the restaurant and bar specific rules:
Establishments may operate at 50% capacity or 50 people. Whichever is less.
All employees are required to wear masks. Patrons may be required at the discretion of the business owner….All other commercial entities are on a strict “No mask, No service.” policy. (Stores, taxis, the passenger ferry, etc.)
All tables and bar stools will be separated by the staff according to social distancing measures.
No parties larger than 6 people will be permitted to sit together.
Please be patient with restaurant owners and staff with these regulations in mind. They are in jeopardy of losing their business license if they are non-compliant.
The following restaurants are OPEN! —Or scheduled to reopen soon!
The Tap Room – 7 days a week, 11am-11:45PM
North Shore Deli – 7 days a week, 8AM-3PM
Greengo’s Caribbean Cantina St. John – 7 days a week, 11AM-8PM
Pizza Pi (located in Christmas Cove) – Closed Mondays and Tuesdays, Weds-Sun, 11AM-6PM
Sam and Jack’s Deli – Closed Sundays, Mon-Sat 9AM-3PM
Shaibu’s Grab and Go – Closed Saturdays and Sundays, Mon-Fri 8AM-3PM
Skinny Legs – 7 days a week, 11AM-8PM
St. John Scoops – 7 days a week, Noon-8PM
Tap & Still St. John – 7 days a week, 11AM-10PM
Dave and Jerry’s Island Steakhouse – Opening June 8, Closed Sundays, Mon-Sat 5PM-9PM
Uncle Joe’s BBQ – 7 days a week, 11AM-8:30PM (Closes at 6:30 on Sundays)
Longboard – Open Thursday, June 4, 7 days a week, 3PM-11PM (Kitchen closes at 10PM)
Woody’s – 7 days a week, Noon-11PM
Lovango Rum Bar – Closed Sundays & Mondays, Tues-Sat 4PM-9PM
Oceans 362 – Closed Tuesdays, Weds-Mon 5PM-9PM
420 to Center/G-Spot – Bar open 7 days a week, 11-?, Kitchen Noon-?
Irie Pops – Closed Sundays, Mon-Sat Noon-4PM
18⁰64- Takeout Only – Closed Mondays, Tues-Sun, Noon-6PM
Lime Out – Boat Pickup/Drop off at Coral Bay Dock only- Closed Wednesdays & Thursdays, Fri-Tues 11AM-5PM
Gwen’s – Call at least 24 hours in advance to special order Conch, Fish, Chicken or Shrimp – Take-out only.
P and P’s by the Sea – Pre-order take-out on scheduled days only.
Banana Deck – Re-opening mid-late June
Miss Lucy’s – Tentative plan to re-openmid-June
The following restaurants have not determined a reopening date as of yet. Everything is changing quite rapidly and restaurant owners are deciding a lot of “what’s next” based on the safety of their staff and their VERY valued guests. They appreciate your patience and your support.
Joe’s Rum Hut
Pizzabar in Paradise
Quiet Mon Pub
Coral Bay Caribbean Oasis
Extra Virgin Bistro
We will continue to update you as these transitions occur. But hopefully, our favorite spots will continue to re-open their doors throughout the summer until regularly scheduled off-season closures begin.
As we mentioned above, things are changing daily. If you have information on any establishments that you do not see listed above or corrections to the ones you do, please email us or post it in the comments!
This Friday, we will introduce a new series entitled “Local Livin.” Each week, we will show you a fresh perspective from a different St. John resident and include a bit about their background, thoughts on tourism, culture and St. John in general. The submissions for these pieces will be drawn from one-on-one interviews and will be reviewed by the interviewee for their feedback prior to publishing.
In following up with Ital this week, he shares his family history, frustrations with lack of knowledge about St. John culture, some local resources he utilizes for his artistic creations and a message for visitors! A man of many talents, Ital is also an accomplished musician. Check back on Friday for a musical performance from one of your favorite beaches and the full story!