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Normal holiday week, busy Island

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

The Anna Maria City Pier was a busy location during the period from Christmas to New Year’s Day. The pier is the No. 1 tourist attraction in Manatee County, according to surveys by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Many accommodation owners and managers, retail store and restaurant operators said business during the Christmas holidays was about what they expected: Normal.

But “normal” to David Teitelbaum, owner/operator of the Tortuga Inn, Tradewinds and Seaside resorts in Bradenton Beach, means “We were pretty busy,” he said.

“It was a bit slow the week before Christmas, but the day after, we got hit big. A lot of walk-in traffic, and we were very busy,” he said.

“Busy for the Christmas season is what we’re supposed to be, so it was a good Christmas week.”

Accommodation rentals also picked up right after Christmas, said Zita Kollar of Gulf-Bay Realty in Holmes Beach.

“We did fairly well and booked a lot of properties that week. We got a lot of long-term bookings from a number of families,” she said.

Although there are still some vacation rentals available, Kollar said advance reservations for February, March and the first two weeks of April are peaking, and some periods are already 100 percent booked.

Not everyone in the accommodation/vacation rental industry had a happy Christmas.

Jeff Geary of the White Sands Resort in Holmes Beach said reservations were a bit down from last year.

“I’m not saying it was bad, it was about what we expected. It could have been a bit busier for us,” he said.

Many guests arrived after Christmas to stay for the week between that holiday and New Year’s Day, he said.

Geary noted that advance reservations for February and March were “looking good.”

The Christmas week also was “normal” to some in the Island’s retail industry.

“We were busy,” said Linda Clayton, co-owner of Mister Roberts Resortwear in the S&S Shopping Plaza, 5330 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

“We did about what we expected that week. I haven’t done all the figures, but we might be a bit ahead of last year. It certainly wasn’t a bad Christmas,” Clayton said.

At the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, administrative assistant Deb Wing said she hasn’t heard any members complain they had a poor holiday season.

“I would say it’s been fairly normal, meaning pretty busy,” she said.

“We’ve had quite a few walk-ins looking for tourism information or asking where they could find a rental. We definitely weren’t slow for the holidays,” Wing concluded.

Restaurateur Ed Chiles, who owns the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria, the BeachHouse Restaurant in Bradenton Beach and the Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub on Longboat Key, said the good weather ensured a good Christmas for the restaurants.

“People love outdoor dining. We had a lot of good weather days and there were a lot of hungry people at the three restaurants those days,” he said.

When the weather turned chilly, windy and cloudy for a few days during the holidays, business dropped a bit, Chiles said.

“Still, it was a good Christmas season for us. We’re certainly not unhappy, we were busy and if we have good weather this season, everyone should do fine,” Chiles concluded.

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