Why villa rates could go up

Let's touch 'the third rail' about the cost of renting a villa.

On the VINow forum, a person wanted to know if St. John villas charged an 'energy fee,' as she has paid at resorts in the Bahamas and Antigua.

Anita Davis, a long time VI resident, replied she was unaware of the practice generally.  "But, since our energy costs from 50-cents/kwh, it would be great if our visitors did not open doors and/or windows with air conditioning blasting or let water run unnecessarily."  To which, the Inquiring Iguana says 'Amen."

Toes in the Sand said, "We have never had a villa with a specific fee for energy usage. There is usually a provision in the contract for a fee if excessive energy or water usage occurs, but never a fee for normal usage. I would love to see a villa rate plan that allows credit for low utility and water usage."

Cruising Gal said she's found a villa that does have such fees,"The one we want to rent."  There is a $250 cleaning fee and a $19 per day energy surcharge.

Linda J passed along the news that Caneel Bay has a 10% charge which can be attributed to energy. (Can anyone confirm this?)  "Others, the Westin I believe, have a daily activities fee.  It all adds up to the same thing. (They) do not want to raise their published daily rates," she said.

How do you feel about villas trying to manage and monitor guests' water and energy use through quotas and charges for overage?

St. John restaurant closings

According to the St. John Sun Times, these eateries will be cooling their stoves for a while.

  • Cafe Roma: Closed for September
  • Caneel: Closed Sept. 7 to Oct. 27
  • Fish Trap: Closed for September
  • La Tapa: Closed for August
  • Miss Lucy's: Closed now through August (they think)
  • Ocean Grill: Closed Sept. 7-Oct. 11
  • Ronnie's Pizza: Closed last week of August and September
  • Shipwreck Landing: Closed 6 weeks, starting September
  • Sweet Plantains: Closed until further notice (reportedly, an impending baby birth)
  • Waterfront Bistro: Closed Sept. 7 to mid-October
  • St. John Spice also keeps tabs on restaurant vacations at here.

St. John! … BEAT Georgia!

 It's a long shot, but the Virgin islands National Park has a chance to get a $100,000 grant from the Coca Cola company.

It's park of Coke's “America Is Your Park” campaign to urge Americans to be active outdoors and to cast a vote for their favorite park to win the grant made possible by the company's Live Positively initiative.

But the odds are not good.  Some pipsqueak state park in Georgia  is already second in the tally.  Little Ocmulgee State Park.  It has already gotten almost 65,000 votes.  The current leader, Great Smokey Mountains National Park has 74,000.

The VINP has …. 53.

So you know what you have to do by August 31.  Vote!

The grant would be used for activity equipment such as bikes and kayaks, or for the restoration and construction of activity areas, presumably including hiking trails.

Vote, now!, at livepositively.com.

The Inquiring Iguana, a nefarious creature with experience in Chicago politics, has determined it's possible to vote more often than once, even encouraged. 

"Vote as many times as you like before the voting closes 8/31," a message on the site says after you cast a click.  The Iguana's votes for the Park were its 36th, 37th, and 38th.

If some dumb Georgia park no one's ever heard of can have 28K votes in the first 24 hours the poll was open, that's a lot of Georgia Peaches squeezing their mice and casting ballots.  St. John, it's up to you.

(Photo courtesy of Jan Lichterman's Flickr feed.)

New tax on airfare to the Virgin Islands?

The company responsible for providing cargo, baggage and technical services at the St. Thomas airport is not happy. 

Faced with the continuing poor baggage belts and an "unreliable infrastructure", a spokeswoman for Worldwide Flight Services raises an interesting issue on behalf of her co-workers. (Photo via William Hartz' Flickr account.)

"Many in the airlines and airport community would like to see an accounting of what the Passenger Facilities Charge (PFC) has been used for," Joanne Bohr said to the St. John Source.  She reacted to word the Port Authority wants to increase the PFC from $3 to $4.50 per passenger.

Those funds, she said, are supposed to be used for projects approved by the airlines to improve the experience of using the airport. "The PFCs are not intended for overhead or salary," she said, implying the Authority may have been tapping the fund for operations rather than repairs and improvements.

"As difficult as it may be for the passenger," she continued, "it is a much bigger hardship for those that work in the airport … without … bag belts, (and) without any air conditioning."

Before the Authority can increase the fee, which would apply to both inbound and outbound tickets the Federal Aviation Administration must give its approval.  And presumably the FAA won't do that unless the airlines agree, and believe, the money will be used to pay for improving the St. Thomas and St. Croix airport.

Some people have a good, good time waiting at STT.

New Cruz Bay marina would handle 100 boats

Slide If Paul Devine's suggestion for developing Cruz Bay come to pass, visitors would see a boardwalk from the Creek to the parking lot across from the Post office, as well as a walkway around the Cruz Bay beach.

Devine, director of the St. John Community Foundation, would also like to see the existing ferry dock doubled in length and 'finger piers' added to accommodate privately-owned boats.  He'd also like to see public bathrooms, showers and storage areas added to the existing ticketing building to accommodate sailors.

Another of his ideas would be to eliminate vendors in Cruz Bay (Powell) Park, across from the ferry dock, and the center of town.  That would be needed to "clear the way for improvements."

Devine presented these ideas, and others, at the recent Town Meeting on the future of the island's waterfront.  You can read his full comments by clicking this: Waterfront Plan Narrative

  • More about Paul Devine: here
  • St. John Community Foundation Web site: sjcf.org

Real estate: villas ARE selling


Six months' results do not a year make, but there's something for both optimists and pessimists in St. John real estate sales for the first six months of the year. 

Transactions listed on the RE/MAX Island Paradise Realty Web site show 13 homes changed hands between January and June. If you annualize that number, this is about a 15% increase in units.  Land sales show the same kind of extrapolated growth with 10 deals in the first six months compared to about 24 in all of 2009.

(It's only fair to point out that RE/MAX's sales history differs from that of Cruz Bay Realty's. The latter shows one more villa and two more land sales.)

Pricing, however, for both homes and land is soft.  The average final asking price for a home in the first half of the year was $1.8 million, while the average selling price was $1.563 million, a decrease of 14.5%.  A similar story with land sales; average asking price of $368 thousand and a selling price of $305 thousand, a nearly 17% discount.

The inventory of homes for sale has been steady at about 145 properties, according to the Multiple Listing Service.  It's a good bet, however, that some villa owners would like to sell but just don't feel it makes sense to put their house on the market in a, shall we say 'soft' economy.

Sundown for Baked in the Sun

St_john_bakery_01 Soon there will be no cake for you, or scrumptious sandwiches, from one of the island's best bakeries. 

Located on the third floor of the Marketplace, the owner of Baked in the Sun confirms that "as of today we are closing Oct. 16th."

But says Kim Edwards, "Nothing is decided or final," and she even holds out the idea of reopening after "some time off with my family … spend(ing) some time sailing in the Caribbean."

News of the closing traveled quickly on the Trip Advisor forum.

WishIWasintheVI spoke for many, commenting, "It's a shame, as they have rave reviews  and I hate to see any business close…and leaves me at a loss for a cake for my daughters(and both my parents) birthday and my vow renewal unless I want to pay a fortune from Katilady or St. John Cakes, etc."  STTresident was more philosophical; "It's sad but so the islands turn. Businesses come and businesses go and only the very strong survive!"

Baked was listed for sale in April of 2007 with an asking price  of $450,000.  Edwards said one of the current employees "is considering buying the business."

2011 Blues Festival – Twice as Nice

2011_StJohnBluesFestival Steve Simon, Blues Boss of the world-renowned Johnnie Walker St. John Blues Festival proudly says this year's festival will have two nights of celebrity concerts in the Coral Bay Ball Field.

The two 'star studded shows" will play Friday evening, March 18th, and Saturday evening, March 19th.
Friday evening will feature Grady Champion and his band, Candye Kane and Blind Pig Records recording artist Albert Cummings.
And then taking the stage at 8:00 pm on Saturday evening will be Telarc recording artists Moreland & Arbuckle, the "Queen of Memphis" Reba Russell and her band and the man who inspired John Belushi to create the Blues Brothers, Curtis Salgado and his Big Band.

Tickets will go on sale right after the 1st of the year and will be available on St. John at Connections in Cruz Bay, Connections in Coral Bay, Chelsea Drugs in the Marketplace and on St. Thomas at Chelsea Drugs in Red Hook.
Advance tickets are $25 for each night or $45 for a two night pass.  Tickets purchased at the gate will be $30 each night.  All children under 16 are admitted free.
There will be $5 safari taxi rides to the Coral Bay Ball Field from the Cruz Bay passenger ferry dock and from the Coral Bay Ball Field to the Cruz Bay passenger ferry dock all night long both evenings.

The 9th Annual Johnnie Walker St. John Blues Festival is brought to you by Johnnie Walker, The Lumberyard Complex, Merchants Commercial Bank, the U.S.V.I Department of Tourism, Rotary of St. John, The Gifft Hill School, Shipwreck Landing Restaurant, Rhumblines, The Beach Bar, Sun Dog Cafe, Jeff & Bonnie Simon and Steve and Helen Simon.

The Inquiring Iguana encourages you to make your plans to stay at his Blue Tang villa while you're sampling the Festival and the island's joys.

Christmas (shopping) in July

World class photographer Steve Simonsen says his calendar for 2011 is a "Limited Edition ."


It may very well be that previous years' have also been limited, but something tells the Inquiring Iguana this one is going to be really collectible.

On Simonsen's Facebook page, he's been experimenting with fine art photography and has some stunning images.  Wouldn't be surprised to see some of the arty-farty in the calendar for 2011.

Janet, the photog's much better half, says she'll ship the calendars in October.Order now so they know how many to print. $23.50 for one, Priority Mail shipping included, two for $42.

You can order the calendar here: web.me.com/ssimonsen/Store/Calendars.html

Even St. Johnians get a V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N

It's that time of year when the number of visitors decreases and business owners feel they can afford to take advantage of the chance to get off the rock. 

For example, Ella Anderson, owner of the St. John Sun Times, is taking a summer vacation.  In the latest issue of her magazine/newspaper, she explained, "It's all numbers.  We depend on advertising … and when our clients are not doing well, we don't do well."

Anderson talked about the facts-of-St-John-life, running a business in a seasonal economy, at a recent Rotary meeting, "So," she wrote, "I'm opting to accept the current situation.  We will be back, better than ever, in October."

Several articles from the Sun Times' Travel Issue are
available here.