Resorts booking for busy winter season

TourismassnThe Westin St. John is projecting its 282 rooms will be 80 percent occupied during the upcoming season, while Caneel Bay
resort expects to fill 74 percent of its rooms.  The statistics were
released at a recent meeting of the USVI Hotel and Tourism Association,
the St. John Source reported.  St. Thomas’ Holiday Inn
had the most optimistic projection, estimating its 151 rooms will be 87
percent occupied.  The Association’s leadership also outlined
promotional plans for next year, telling members it hoped to invest $1
million marketing the islands to vacations through its Web site, trade shows, and sales presentations on the mainland.

Read moreResorts booking for busy winter season

Critics protest gambling at Wharfside

Reaction to our story about the opening of Captain’s Cabin Games and Sports Bar at Wharfside Shopping Mall has been almost unanimous: NOMY (Not on my island!).  Comments about the availability of horse race betting and video lottery terminals on the second floor of the center prompted two suggestions that what was likely to come next would be a Hooter’s bar. 

"We’re building a home on St. John to get away from this sort of low-life garbage," wrote Bill Hoffman.  "This is truly depressing.  I’m not only depressed, I’ve moved on to anger" added Dee.  "I really doubt the paradise worshipers will go for this type of cheap, low class entertainment," added Steve.

However, at least two posts were supportive.  "Get real people," wrote Ronnie.  "It’s inside a building not bothering anybody."  He continued, ominously some might say, "It will only be a matter of time that there will be a real casino … maybe even on St. John."  A comment from SJ said, "I think it is a good idea.  I love horse racing." 

Several calls to the person identified as Wharfside’s manager, for comment, were not returned.

New businesses

Lonnie Willis, a co-owner of the Fish Trap and Stone Terrace restaurants, will open a naturally good idea in the Raintree Mall at the end of December or early January. "You’ll be able to buy all kins of fish, scallops, etc. and Fish Trap Chowder and salads to go for lunch and dinner," he said.  General Manager Christopher Gagnon will oversee the operation.

And the new deli has opened at Mongoose Junction.  Called the Deli Grotto, it began operations at the end of October, headed up by Dan Sheffey.  He’s also been the owner of the wonderful Grateful Deli at Red Hook on St. Thomas.

Real estate update

MlsLots of listing, not much selling.  In the past week, five properties have been added to the Multiple Listing Service.  Three are in Coral Bay, one’s mid-island at Annaberg, and the most expensive is out near Maho Bay – a  4 bedroom/4-bath with pool property on 9 acres, priced at $11.5 million.  That’s the second offering above $10 million.  The other is the $13.9 million 4-bedroom/4-bath Peter Bay Cliffhouse.  Nothing’s come off the MLS, so as of Monday morning, there were 48 residences available, 14 of which are priced under $1 million, and 16 between $1 and $2 million.

Listings are also up for land parcels, a gain of three to 146.  There was one less condominium offering as the list now shows 7 properties.  There was no change for timeshares, 93, or business/commercial properties, 9.

By the way, note that we’ve added real estate ads in the right column.  It’s a natural to be advertised on the News of St. John, as are villa rentals and island services.  If you’d like information about how to market your business here, e-mail [email protected].

Coral Bay school teachers protest

Teachers held classes in the cafeteria of the Guy Benjamin school two days this week to protest the transfer of the school’s only special education teacher to St. Thomas.  The teacher had been assigned to work with about six students needing special attention.  The job action was to complain about what they said was a lack of communication from the district superintendent, according to a report in the Virgin Islands Daily News. They tried to contact William Frett, but he did not reply.  Efforts by the newspaper to reach the superintendent were also unsuccessful, nor did Benjamin’s principal, Margaret Bowers, offer a comment.   

Professor completes Parks parade

CoralreefAlan Hogenauer, an associate professor and director of the Center for Travel and Tourism at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, has completed a 50-year-adventure by snorkeling at the Virgin Islands Coral Reef Monument near St. John.  "I learned that getting there is more than half the fun," he told the Virgin Islands Daily News.  He is believed to be the first person to have visited each of the National Park service’s 388 units  Hogenauer teaches travel and tourism at Marymount,  and likes to make lists.  His other goals include traveling to every national forest, and presidential birthplace and graveyard.

United Way spruces up Sprauve

UnitedwayA "Day of Caring" brought about 60 people, some from St. Thomas, to clean up the Julius E. Sprauve School, the St. John Source reported.  Juanita Young, president of the United Way, sanded a picket fence at the school’s entrance and said, "This brings the community as whole to a particular project."  This was the first activity on St. John organized by the charitable group, the story said. Caneel Bay resort contributed workers as well as equipment including a backhoe.  Volunteers painted the concrete fence around the Winston Wells ball field and helped prepare an area across from the school where it is hoped playground equipment can be installed.

Barshinger finally wins

BarshingerSt. John’s Craig Barshinger was elected Senator At Large. The community activist and perennial candidate narrowly defeated the incumbent, Almando Liburd.  After counting provisional and absentee ballots late last week, Barshinger led by 319 votes in unofficial results released by the Board of Elections over the weekend, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News.  Analysts said voters on St. Croix were instrumental in giving the Senator-elect his victory.

It was his fifth campaign effort in 10 years. Previous efforts, he told the St. John Source, were "necessary in learning how to get things done; how to build up a network of friendships, (and) people with shared goals." Barshinger, who’s actively involved in the St. John Community Foundation’s project to develop a recommendation for local government, said finally winning the Senate seat is not a big deal. "I suppose when it sinks in, I’ll be more ebullient," he commented, "but to me it’s just a position on a board, an important position."

In other contests, Donna M. Christensen easily won reelection as the territory’s Delegate to Congress.

Governor campaigns for EDC in DC

CharlesturnbullThe territory’s Democratic Governor said he had a successful series of meetings in Washington last week, discussing new regulations affecting the territory’s Economic Development CommissionCharles Turnbull met with former house majority leader Dick Armey and Reagen communications director Michael Deaver, before conferring with Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and other executive branch staffers.  "I am heartened by the response we received regarding the need to develop a fair and reasonable rules for the EDC program which has contributed so greatly to our economy and our fiscal future," the Governor said in a news release, according to the St. John Source. Legislation recently signed by Pres. Bush establishes standards for meeting residency and income-source standards for EDC-chartered companies to qualify for substantial tax exemptions.

Jazz in the Moonlight

MoonlightThe fourth annual season of Jazz in the Moonlight concerts, produced by Steve Simon, kicks off Saturday at the Westin Resort. Trumpeter Eddie Russell and his band will be the featured performers.  Russell is a native Crucian and is known in the business as "the heart and soul of Caribbean Jazz."  St. Thomians can also easily attend the show by taking a special ferry from Red Hook direct to the Westin.  There’s more information on the Web site at jazzinthemoonlight.com.