Just Play! Looking for a T-Shirt Sponsor

Just Play 2013

Dean Doeling, founder of the annual Just Play! event, has asked us to spread the word about a sponsorship need for this October’s event. And because we believe in this event so much, we were happy to oblige.

Here’s what Dean had to say:

“Hey USFSC’ers!

As you know, we are coming up short for Just Play! cash donations but thanks to some of you wonderful people for stepping up, as the donations are trickling in.

I would like to propose the following to any person or business, on island or not:

We need to still purchase T- shirts for the Just Play event. The next $1,000 donation will allow us to purchase those tees. And as a thank you, we will have your logo printed on the sleeve!

What a great way to promote your business, get a tax write off and help us reach our fundraising goal!

All donations go through the St. John Community Foundation.

Email me here if you would like to participate.”

Looking for more information on the event? Click here to visit its website.

It’s That Time Again: Tax Season

USVI Government Seal

We have some good news and some bad news. Let’s get the bad part over with first:

Property taxes for 2012 are due.

Now how about the good news:

If you pay by August 30, you’ll get a five percent discount – Every little bit helps.

Lt. Governor Gregory R. Francis recently extended the discount period in hopes that more property owners will take advantage of the opportunity to save some cash. He first implemented the early payment discount back in 2008. He did so “in consideration of the economic challenges faced by many throughout the territory,” according to a release.

The Lieutenant Governor’s office also wants us to remind you that you can pay your bill even if you haven’t received it yet. (Island time?) Payments can be made at the Tax Collector’s Office, which is located in the Islandia Building.

The Lieutenant Governor also announced that he is waiving penalty and interest fees for property tax years 2008 through 2011. Payments must be made by November 7 in order to take advantage of this savings.

Save Money at Your Favorite St. John Spots

MyViDeals

Residents and visitors will soon be able to save a little cash at their favorite restaurants, shops and more when a new website launches later this year.

MyViDeals is a newly formed social buying website that is very much like Groupon and LivingSocial. The main difference, however, is that it will feature local deals within both the US and British Virgin Islands, as well as Puerto Rico. MyViDeals is the brainchild of Prince and Rose Adams. The Adams have owned Sweet Plantains in Coral Bay for the past nine years.

“As small business owners, we are very familiar with the challenging seasonal fluctuations in the Caribbean,” Prince Adams said. “The economy of the Caribbean, especially on our Islands, is predominantly driven by tourism, namely tourists from North American and Europe respectively. Our islands’ tourist trade corresponds directly to seasonal fluctuations related to the threat of hurricanes and mainland holidays, whereas the majority of our trade is concentrated during the few winter months. Business owners have just a few peak months of strong sales.

“We understand the important impact that tourist-based businesses have on the local economy. MyViDeals’ concept is to provide Virgin Islands residents and visitors alike with the best shopping experience while at the same time maximizing exposure for local businesses.”

MyViDeals will deliver exclusive members-only opportunities spanning from eating out, shopping, beauty, wellness, home, travel and leisure. They will also offer flash deals – exclusive, but limited quantity deals that will only be available for a short period of time.

MyViDeals is slated to launch this November, just in time for high season. Even though the service has yet to formally launch, it’s not too early to sign up. Please click here to send an email to MyViDeals to sign up. You can also “like” them on Facebook here or sign up through their Facebook site here.

New Bag Delivery Service Takes Some Stress Out of Travel

Image courtesy of MakeTravelEasier.com
Image courtesy of MakeTravelEasier.com

Tired of schlepping your bags home after spending some time on St. John? Or perhaps you don’t want to bother getting them to the island in the first place. If either of those situations sound like you, you’re in luck.

JetBlue just announced that it has teamed up with a bag delivery service which will bring your checked bags from the airport to your final destination. The way it works is simple: Travelers can place an order online up to one hour prior to their scheduled departure from select JetBlue airports in the United States, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Once an order is placed, you’ll receive a confirmation number. You then check your bags at the airport and an airline employee will apply a Bags VIP tag to the luggage.

There’s no need to head to the baggage claim area once you reach your final destination. Instead you could leave the airport immediately and your bags will join you within four hours as long your final destination is within 40 miles of the airport. Locations between 41 and 100 miles from the airport can take up to six hours to arrive. And if the four to six hour delivery window doesn’t work for you, you can always schedule your delivery time in advance.

According to the Bags VIP website, one bag costs $29.95, two bags cost $39.95 and three to eight bags cost $49.95. (Pricing may vary.) Seems like a worthwhile price to pay to avoid the stress of locating an available spot in an overhead bin or waiting in long baggage claim lines.

JetBlue isn’t the only airline to offer this service, although it is the latest to sign on. American Airlines and United do as well. The good thing about JetBlue, however, is that your first checked bag is free which ultimately lowers the cost for travelers. (Checked bag fees are not included in Bags VIP prices.)

And for those of you who don’t even want to bother bring your bags to the airport at all, there’s a service for you too. LugLess and Luggage Forward will pick up your bags at your home and will deliver them to your final destination. These services take a bit longer, so you may have to ship your bags early.

Click here for more information on Bags VIP from JetBlue’s website.

Click here for more information on Bags VIP from United’s website.

Click here for more information on Bags VIP from American Airline’s website.

Familiar Faces to Open Family-Friendly Restaurant

The former JJ's Texas Coast Cafe
The former JJ’s Texas Coast Cafe

There’s a new restaurant coming to the island, and we have to admit, we’re pretty excited about this one.

As some of you may know, JJ’s Texas Coast closed last month after more than two decades in business. Well it turns out that JJ herself handpicked two very worthy successors – Todd Beaty and his wife Christy.

And if Todd’s name sounds familiar to you, that’s because it probably is. He and his brother Chad owned the popular Woody’s Seafood Saloon for 13 years before selling the business back in March.

But Todd and Christy’s new venture will be very different than Woody’s and that’s what makes it pretty cool. Rather than going after the bar crowd, they’re looking to create a more family-oriented restaurant.

“We had a lot of fun with Woody’s, but now that we’re older and have a family, we’re trying to cater to a more family-oriented crowd,” Todd said. (Todd and Christy have two sons – a four-year-old and a two-year-old.)

The new restaurant has yet to be named, but the Beatys said it will have a very beachy vibe. They are currently renovating and plan to change things up a bit. For starters, they are moving the location of the indoor bar and will transform it into a coffee bar complete with lattes and cappuccinos, as breakfast will be their specialty. They’re also going to install a second bar outside, so patrons can enjoy the beautiful view of the park and Cruz Bay.

The view from the Beaty's new restaurant
The view from the Beaty’s new restaurant

Christy said she wants to bring the park alive at night and will install tiki torches to brighten it up. The Beatys also plan to re-side the building with cedar shingles and will install a stand-up shuffle board table game outside in an effort to carry on the beach theme.

So how did this all come about? According to Todd, Jean Jewel aka JJ, approached him about purchasing her restaurant right after Woody’s sold. “It seemed like an incredible offer,” he said. “And it was perfect timing.” So they went for it.

Todd and Christy’s new restaurant is slated to open sometime in mid-October. It will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.


DPNR Issues Notice of Violation for Denis Bay Property

Photo Courtesy of John McQuillen
Photo courtesy of John McQuillen

The Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) issued a Notice of Violation to the Denis Bay property owner accused of altering the area’s landscape and VI National Park land.

DPNR found that property owner Tony Ingrao violated seven provisions of the VI Building Code including excavating and land clearing on National Park land; failure to secure an earth change permit; building without a permit; violating provisions of permits; and excavations affecting adjoining properties.

According to the Notice of Violation, the Division of Building Permits was notified on May 13 that a landslide occurred on a lower section of the roadway adjacent to plot 2B Denis Bay. Prior to the landslide report, the Division had met with the construction project manager to discuss concerns about possible environmental impacts and hazards created by the site. Mitigations efforts were discussed and it was indicated at the time that they would begin as quickly as possible.

Now that the Notice of Violation has been issued, Ingrao will be required to submit plans and a new building permit application for site stabilization, drainage and any associated structure needed to stabilize the affected area. Ingrao must submit any agreement or mitigation approved by the National Park with regard to the impacted areas. Ingrao is required to notify and receive approval for any work conducted on the recently reopened roadway leading to the property, and upon approval, Ingrao has 45 days to make repairs to that roadway.  DPNR also fined Ingrao $10,500 which must be paid within 30 days.

Jamal Nielsen, DPNR Media Relations Coordinator, stated Monday that Ingrao has already implemented corrective action measures, although he did not have specific details on what types of measures have been put into place thus far.

Ingrao is a world-renowned interior designer based in New York City. News of St. John reached out to him Monday, but was unsuccessful.

Below is a map of the property’s location:

Marked Denis Bay Map

Finding the Best Airfare, Part 2

airplane-palm-trees
As we mentioned last week, finding airfare to St. Thomas has proven to be quite the task in recent months. We have a few more tips that can help you in your quest to find the cheapest airfare.

1. Southwest releases its fares today through March 7, 2014. The catch with Southwest is that it only flies to San Juan, Puerto Rico. You would have to pick up a puddle jumper flight from there. But it may be worth the extra hassle – After performing a quick search for fares for next February, we were able to find roundtrip fares from New York for only $307 RT; from Los Angeles for only $388 and from Dallas for only $446.

2. For those of you traveling with a small group and don’t mind the extra hassle of San Juan, Cape Air has a pretty good deal out there. It’s called the Commuter Book. This, however, is only good for folks traveling with five or more in a group, or those in smaller groups who travel to St. John more frequently.

The way it works is simple: You purchase a Commuter Book of tickets on Cape Air. The booklet consists of 10 one-way tickets between San Juan and St. Thomas (or vice versa). The tickets must be used within one year of purchase. Cape Air states that fliers can save up to 30 percent by purchasing tickets this way. In our very unscientific study, we’ve found an average savings of around 13 percent. The regular price for February, for example, is $1,245 for five round trip tickets whereas the Commuter Book sells for only $1,099. That’s a savings of $146, not too shabby.

So yes, it has become increasingly more expensive to travel to St. John but there are ways to lower airfare costs for those willing to put up with small hassles and those committed to doing their diligent homework.

In case you missed last week’s post about other ways to get the lowest airfare, please click here to read the full article.

St. John Condo Named One of World’s Top-Rated Hotels

Grande Bay Exterior

A big congratulations goes out to Grande Bay, which was just named to Expedia.com’s Insiders’ Select 2013 list. The list ranks the world’s top hotels and is based predominantly on customer rankings.

According to Expedia’s website, hotels on the Insiders’ Select list are rated on a number of factors, including customer scores. Only 650 of 205,000 available properties are named to the list. Grande Bay is only one of four hotels to be honored throughout the Caribbean.

To see a bit more why Grande Bay was named to this list, please check out its website here. You can also read Grande Bay’s reviews on Expedia.com here.

Please click here to see a full list of the 2013 Insiders’ Select hotels.

Where is your favorite place to stay on St. John?

Residents Reveal Vision of Coral Bay’s Future

Coral Bay Likes
These are the top words used by residents to describe what they like most about Coral Bay.

Coral Bay residents would like to see a gas station return to their quiet community and the unsightly dumpsters relocated away from the mangroves. But most importantly, they want to make certain that environmental protections are put in place prior to any new development in the area.

The recently released Coral Bay Community Council visioning survey showed that the majority of respondents were on the same page in terms of what they envision for the future of Coral Bay. Two hundred and seventeen people answered the survey.

In a nutshell:

  • Residents would like to preserve the area’s stunning views and avoid having them blocked by future development
  • They would like to see a gas station return to the area
  • They would like the dumpsters moved away from the mangroves
  • Year-round residents would like to see more recreational facilities built, such as basketball courts
  • Some residents indicated that they would like to see greater job availability within the area
  • Respondents indicated that they enjoy being “different” and stated that they did not want the area to become “urban” like Cruz Bay or St. Thomas
  • They would like to see road improvements, specifically Centerline Road
  • They would like to see a small-scale marina built or other boat services added to the area

And what is it that Coral Bay residents firmly do not want? Well, they do not want to see any large-scale developments built, including marinas, hotels, resorts, condos or other large-scale living areas.

What is your vision for Coral Bay?

Dr. Cool Just Got Cooler

Dr. Cool Logo

Since 1999, Dr. Cool has been the island’s go-to air conditioning specialist. Dr. Cool can now add the island’s go-to high-end appliance retailer and servicer to their list of services.

Dr. Cool recently expanded their business to include high-end appliances. As the official USVI authorized dealer for the represented brands, Dr. Cool is pleased to be able to offer a full, two-year warranty on parts and labor across all products, with an additional 5 year warranty on compressors. An unparalleled benefit to the island community that no dealer has been able to provide…until now!

The business recently opened an expansive showroom, so customers now have the opportunity to browse Dr. Cool’s selection of fine appliances in person. Customers are welcomed and encouraged to test their cooking skills in one of Dr. Cool’s live kitchens. Sounds like fun to us!

Dr. Cool supports community building, which is why they plan to invite the public into their showroom for events that will include wine tastings and cooking demonstrations. It’s important to the folks over at Dr. Cool to share what they have with the community. (We’ll pass along dates and times as soon as they become available.)

Dr. Cool offers Energy Star rated appliances including Sub Zero, Wolf, Miele, Thermador, Gaggenau, Bosch and Electrolux.  Every Dr. Cool appliance comes with a full two-year warranty – the best appliance warranty in the islands.

Dr. Cool has been serving St. John residents since 1999. They plan to continue to service St. John’s air conditioning, refrigeration and appliances needs long after the sale and installation of these items, and for years to come.

Stop by the showroom and check it out for yourself. They’re located over in Palm Plaza just over Jacob’s Ladder. The showroom is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is also open Saturday by appointment.

You can also check them out on the web at www.DrCool.com.  You can even like them on Facebook at www.Facebook.com.DrCoolBuzz or follow them on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/DrCoolBuzz

Dr. Cool has been providing air conditioning service since 1999. Pictured here is Gary, General Manager of Dr. Cool with the Mitsubishi A/C display.
Dr. Cool has been providing air conditioning service since 1999. Pictured here is Gary, General Manager of Dr. Cool, with the Mitsubishi A/C display.
Gabrielle Dr. Cool
Gabrielle Nelson, Dr. Cool’s Kitchen Design Consultant, stands in front of a live Dr. Cool kitchen.
(Photo courtesy of Barbara Crites)