Making noise at Maho

A pavilion picnic area, costing nearly $500,000, is being built at Maho Bay beach. (Photos courtesy of Bob Schlesinger of TropicalFocus.com.)

The money for the work has been raised by fees visitors paid at Trunk Bay as well as those from boaters using the Park's moorings.

The project involves removing some of the old pavilion as well as constructing a new facility, adding a toilet, and a few additional parking spaces at the far end of the beach.

Read moreMaking noise at Maho

Chesney in Maine

St. John's favorite county singer is making music in New England.
View Larger Map

The Associated Press reported Kenny Chesney's people are producing music video of "Hemingway's Whiskey" in the working waterfront town of Port Clyde. The song is about the coast, lighthouses and the beautiful fall colors of New England.

The singer is expected to also go to Maine to help out on the production.

Beach Bar changing its tunes

Jazz Looks like jazz music at the Beach Bar has hit some sour notes.

The Facebook page for the uber-popular watering hole announced this week that it will host a "Sunday afternoon Beach Party with Live music beginning at 4:20 pm OCT 31st……………… THE ROSENCRANZ."

A Google search identifies The Rosencranz as an indie rock ban from Italy, currently on tour in the US, playing in New Orleans this week.

If the Beach Bar has 86ed jazz, it spells the end to a years-long tradition on the island.  Steve Simon, an award-winning clarinetist and composer, began the tradition when he gathered some of his friends to play live music as the weekend wrapped up. Hundreds of locals and visitors stopped by the bar to enjoy the fun.  Musicians on holiday from St. John as well as St. Thomas would drop in and jam with the group.

By going with indie rock or other music, it would appear the Beach Bar is trying to "young up" its demographics on Sunday afternoons and, of course, boost the bar business.  Another reason the jazz may be ending could be that Simon, who founded and produces the St. John Blues festival, is developing business interests off island which take him to the mainland more often.

  • More about the Blues Fest here:


La Plancha moving to Mongoose Junction

Jason The island's top-rated restaurant (according to TripAdvisor) is moving.

The owners of la Plancha del Mar closed a deal at the end of August to move their business to the space formerly occupied by Paradiso St. John.  The two couldn't be more different, but La Plancha's owners – Jason Howard (pictured above), Mike Prout and Jonathan Fritz – say the food and the quality and the fun will be the same.

At the Marketplace, La Plancha was in a windowless corner on the second floor with room for about six tables.  At Mongoose, there will be more than that spavce in the outdoor seating area alone, never mind the huge interior with a long bar and tables, all surrounded by wood and island stonework and windows, offering seating for as many as 75 people.

This is a big move for the trio who opened for business just about 18 months ago.

La Plancha's Facebook page announced "We are now accepting applications for all positions."  This prompted Steve Dean to ask, "Have you filled … regular and general bar fly?" Pat Gilbertson, wondering about her golden years, speculated, "Maybe that's what Gary and I should do in retirement ;-)."

While the guys get to work fixing up the Paradiso space the way they'll like it, La Plancha is open only for dinner, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday.  No word on when the new location will open for business.

What TripAdvisor has to say about La Plancha del Mar.

Westin If you have a reservation to stay at the Westin Resort this week, as Warner Wolf would say, 'You Lose.'

The resort's grounds were seriously damaged last week when Tropical Storm Otto gobsmacked the islands, St. John included.  The torrents began Tuesday, continued through Thursday and rain lingered through the weekend.

The resort has been calling people and telling them to stay home.  If you try to book a room on the Westin Web site odds are you'll be told there's no space at the inn.

A reader posted on the NoSeeUm blog, "My husband and I were scheduled to come to STJ on Sat. Oct. 9th. We were phoned last night and were told our reservations had to be cancelled due to flooding, lack of drinking water."

Rafe Boulon, the V.I. National Park’s chief of resources management, recorded a whopping 16.37 inches of rain at St. John’s Trunk Bay, according to Gretchen Labrenz at Cruz Bay Realty.

Photos of the damage at the Westin were posted by Gerald Singer on his blog, St. John Life.  The shot above of the Westin is from his site.  The resort's tennis courts, beachside restaurants, swimming pool were all affected.  Mounds of mud need to be removed.  Only one of the three restaurants is operating.

"At the Westin some rooms were flooded, as was the pool and the beach area" Singer said. "Large breaking waves caused a sailboat anchored in Great Cruz Bay to was up on the Westin beach adding it to the other unfortunate craft brought ashore by Hurricane Earl."

Elsewhere on the island, mudslides and flooding occurred.  Reports said Centerline Road, around Coral Bay, was down to one lane because of falling debris. CNN reported about a dozen boats were pushed ashore at Chocolate Hole.

Over the weekend as sun began to return, artist Sloop Jones put a good news/bad news spin on the situation. "Sunshine and mosquitoes today," he said.

Progress for new St. John school

A federal official has gone on  record endorsing a plan to a land swap which will make it possible for construction of a St. John school near Centerline Road.

Anthony Baubata, the Interior department's Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, met with the Governor and agreed to assist in the project.

The proposal involves turning over land on St. Croix to the National Park Service in exchange for a St. John school site, dates back to 2007.

“We’re all moving in a direction where we are recommitted, we’re re-energized to try and make sure the land is available for residents of St. John so we can build a public school there for the children of the community,” Baubata said during a visit to the territory.

New bakery in an old bakery’s spot

Baked in the Sun is moving from the Marketplace to be the neighbor of Killroy Dry Cleaner in Cruz Bay, next door to the Inn at Tamarind Court.

In a posting on the St. John forum on TripAdvisor.com, StJohnJulie reported that plans to close the bakery business are off the table, that a current employee has bought it.

"Talked to the new owner," Julie said. "Asked her when they were going to be moved and she said November 1 they will be in the new spot. It's an ambitious deadline!!! But she has the right attitude and hopefully everything goes well …"

Exiting the Marketplace?

It's going to be lonely at the Marketplace Shopping Center if island rumors are true.

On Trip Advisor's St. John forum last week, StJohnJulie said she's heard three current tenants are looking to exit the center.  She named the Gym, the La Plancha del Mar restauran.

"I am hearing that being a tenant at the Marketplace isn't the easiest, and people could be just throwing that in to the 'moving out' argument to make things seem really bad. We love our drama!"

On the other hand, the Nest gift shop has reopened after undergoing a makeover and upgrade.

Rummage sale at Pond Bay

Pb A Canadian company is selling personal property and construction equipment at the unfinished Pond Bay Resort at Chocolate Hole.

An advertisement in the online V.I. Source  is headlined, "Court Authorized sale of certain Assets of the Pond Bay Club."

Alvarez & Marsal said it is conducting a sale this week equipment including two electric generators, seven Jeeps, construction materials, furniture and fixtures, a concrete plant, as well as constriction and shipping trailers. A detailed listing also includes light bulbs, doors, Bose sound systems, WiFi routers, a 48' Aquos flat screen TV,doors and desks. 

In other words, it looks like everything's for sale if it isn't nailed down.

Work at the fractional ownership resort ended more than a year ago when the developer, First American Development Group/Carib LLC, ran into financial problems.

There were reports that a German financial institution held the prime mortgage on the project and was trying to transfer rights and permits on the project to another developer.  The VI government resisted a transfer.

New book set on St. John

It's still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die.

Lyrics from As Time Goes By in Casablanca

Cover On St. John, the age old story is about a fight between between development and Caribbean simplicity.  Until the recession hit, development was winning and moving ahead.

The tussle between these forces is at the heart of a new book written by Chuck Ball.  He lived on the island from 2004 to 2007 and saw the boom and bust of the real estate and construction market.  He worked construction, helping to build eco-cabins at Maho and Concordia.

His book is Mingo's Cave. "The central theme of the story is the battle between over development and saving a pristine island environment," Ball explained.

One person has reviewed it on Amazon, giving it a five star rating. "Action, adventure and hidden treasure on a tropical island. Kind of 'Indiana Jones' meets 'Treasure Island'. Enjoyed learning more about the US Virgin Islands and another way of life. A Hollywood ending but that was ok..nice, entertaining read. "

Available on Amazon, it's both an e-book and an audio book.  You can download and listen to it on your iPod, iPad, Zune, PC, Mac and or/ read it on whichever device you prefer.  The price is $3.99.