We know that many of you are either dreaming of or planning your next vacation to the island. Whether it be next week, next month or next year, we will be here waiting to greet you with the warmth that Love City is known for. We also know that Covid has changed things quite a bit, including how our retailers and restaurants are able to operate. Today we’d going to focus on Mongoose Junction, a popular shopping and dining destination located in Cruz Bay.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Mongoose Junction, it’s a beautiful complex located a few minutes from the ferry dock or car barge area by car or a quick five to 10 minute walk by foot. Its designer, Glen Speer, designed and built Mongoose Junction to resemble the Danish plantation ruins that are scattered about the island.
Like many businesses across the US, Mongoose Junction is also working to navigate this new Covid world. In an effort to stay safe and control the spread, the Virgin Islands has implemented a variety of measures to keep its residents and guests safe including social distancing rules, mask requirements and more.
Let’s first chat about masks. They are required when entering all businesses in the US Virgin Islands. In the event that you forgot a mask, the majority of businesses at Mongoose Junction have disposable ones for you to use. Looking for a keepsake to take home? Bamboula, Portico, Arawak Expeditions and Bajo el Sol Gallery and Art Bar all have beautiful handmade masks for sale. And many stores, including Just Beach, Lulee, Friends of the Park Store, Sugar Birds, St. John Brewer’s Brewtique, Island Fancy and Big Planet have Buffs for sale as well.
Now let’s talk about dining options. As you may know, Mongoose Junction is an open air complex. This means that there are plenty of areas where you can dine outside. The Tap Room, North Shore Deli, 18°64° The Restaurant, Scoops, Sun Dog Cafe, Bajo el Sol Gallery and Art Bar and Greengo’s Caribbean Cantina all have areas where you can sit and enjoy a meal, beverage or a treat outdoors. Looking for some air conditioning during these hot summer months? Well you can find that too over at The Tap Room, North Shore Deli and Greengo’s Caribbean Cantina.
Navigating these Covid-related requirements is new to all of us, so there may be longer wait times at some of the businesses. Reservations are recommended at most of our island restaurants, and you may find you have to wait before entering a business due to capacity limits. Caravan Gallery, for example, is a smaller space located on the second floor of Mongoose Junction. During late March and through April, Caravan Gallery was opening by appointment only after closing for Covid. Today, it often has patrons waiting outside to enter… which is a great problem to have!
(Please note that this information is current at the time of this writing. The situation is fluid and can change.)
Covid struck St. John in the middle of high season, a time when stores have the most inventory on hand. It’s a time when we expect to be busy and businesses have some of the most profitable months of the year. So this really set so many people back. But you know what? That’s ok. Because St. John is resilient. We’ve made it through a lot in our long history, and we will make it through this too.
Michael Barry has owned and operated Sun Dog Cafe, which is located at Mongoose Junction, for the past 24 years. This year has been one of the toughest he’s faced yet.
“I can’t even describe how difficult this is on the restaurants,” Michael said. “We all know that it’s a challenging business, for many reasons, but with Covid it’s more so. Menu and operational changes, additional cleaning every minute of the day of everything a guest touches, staffing level changes, monitoring staff health, changes in business levels, wearing masks for 6+ hours a day in 95 degree weather, being asked to enforce the uneven governmental rules on people who question your authority to do so and that change with some irregularity, along with the various levels of enforcement by a variety of regulators. We’re a hardy lot, but the stress on staff and management has been significant and I applaud everyone working in the industry for what they are doing on a daily basis.”
Michael continued: “While we are not first level Covid responders like our amazing health care professionals, we’re doing our part to help everyone get through this challenge. We’re grateful that many people understand this and are tipping more than they usually do for the effort– it helps when guests show that kind of empathy.”
Again, thank you to those of you who have visited the island in recent months, and did so in a responsible manner while following the USVI’s current safety protocols. We thank you all for your patronage and patience, and we cannot wait to greet the rest of you on the island!