Tag Archives: 05-15-2013

Wedding festival spending grows

They came from as far as Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Canada.

And many more future brides and grooms came from Tampa and Orlando for the sixth annual Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Wedding Festival held May 5.

May 4 was the first registration day and 47 people took advantage of the chamber’s Saturday office opening, said chamber vice president Deb Wing.

“After signing up, many of them headed toward the Food and Wine on Pine in Anna Maria,” she said.

“We thought it was a perfect tie-in for our Sunday event and many attendees came for the weekend. We definitely put some heads in beds. And the future brides really did some spending.”

“We had 250 people attend and last year we had 300, but this year’s attendees were not just looking, they were buying their total wedding from the vendors,” Wing said.

Many of those at the festival came in groups of 10-14 people, Wing said, and a vendor was able to present products and services to them all at same time. At previous festivals, a lot of brides and couples would come just for a look, but often found long lines at a vendor site.

Not so this year, Wing said.

Attendees in their private vehicles, the island trolley, walking or taking a golf cart worked well to keep people flowing smoothly from one site to another, she said.

“Everybody kept moving from one venue to another in large groups and we had no backed up lines waiting to get to the vendor.

Wing did not have final figures, but estimated about 40 couples booked their wedding at the festival.

One vendor called Wing to thank her and the chamber for a great job and wanted on the vendor list for the 2014 festival.

“I probably have had 20 vendors call me last week asking about space for next year’s festival, Wing said, adding that one vendor said it was the “best ever” and he’d been a vendor at every festival.

The grand finale was at the Tortuga Inn Beach Resort in Bradenton Beach, with owner David Teitelbaum as host.

“That also was wonderful,” Wing said. “David did an amazing job of putting finale party together,” and more than $20,000 worth of wedding-related prizes were won by many of the couples.

The grand-prize winner was Laura Clements of Childstown, Ind. The Clements party flew from Ohio for the weekend, never dreaming that fortune would smile on them.

Wing said it was Clements’ sister, Heather Gioscio, who is the maid-of-honor for the planned October 2014 wedding, whose name was drawn for the grand prize. She promptly gave the $6,400 wedding package to her sister.

Clements said she and her future husband will be returning with a party of more than 100 people for their beach wedding.

“That’s what I call putting heads in beds,” Wing said.

AMITW answers the BIG question

What the heck is holding up the turtle girls from nesting?

To answer this we pulled out some dusty old files, going back to 1980. The past year’s first nest arrived on May 5. In 2011, we had a surprise with the first nest found April 27. But back in 1988, the girls were running late, and the first nest didn’t appear here until June 8.

We’ve learned over the years that with sea turtles, it’s all about water temperature.

From the time in April when the lady turtles are winking at the guy turtles to when the egg bearing females climb from their home in the water to our sandy shore, everything has to do with temperature.

The nesting female looks for a nesting spot by checking the warmth of that sand. It must be perfect — to her liking — to coddle her eggs and ensure the proper development of the hatchlings.

The females are just off shore, where they’re waiting for the Gulf of Mexico waters to reach 80 degrees or higher. And the sandy beach on Anna Maria Island must be warm enough to incubate their clutch of eggs for 50-70 days.

We start monitoring  AMI’s nesting beaches every year on April 1 — running north and south on the beach by ATV. This fulfills the federal permit conditions for AMI’s beach renourishment projects.

Our staff — the world’s best volunteers — start patrolling the beach on foot May 1.

In years past, I have driven the ATV wearing full foul-weather gear, short-sleeve T-shirts, sweatshirts and sometimes a raincoat. Last year, my first day was spent in short sleeves, this year it was a sweatshirt…. Some days hood up, some day’s hood down.

I recently received a memo from Allen Foley, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission coordinator of sick and injured sea turtles. His staff has been rescuing a high number of young, lethargic green turtles. He believes the early warming trend a month ago, followed by a sharp cold snap a week ago, brought on a shock to our coastal sea turtle population.

Our nesters go by water temperature, and I go by my own unscientific test.

When I get up at 5 a.m., the first thing I do is open the back door in Bradenton Beach and let my pack of dogs out to do their duty. When my bare tootsies touch the patio tile, it’s either “brrrrr” or “ahhhh.”

Mother’s Day morning was still a little “brrrrr.” And still no nest on the beach.

But Monday? The tootsies felt a bit warmer, but, more interestingly, the sand around the new nest felt warmer than the air.

Happy turtle days and a great summer to you all.

— Suzi Fox, executive director, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring


Closure imminent for Rotten Ralph’s

A 30-day extension to resolve an outstanding debt to the city of Bradenton Beach by Rotten Ralph’s concessionaire Dave Russell to keep the restaurant open was not successful.

Commissioners granted the extension April 4 after earlier revealing that Russell had failed to pay rent since June 2012 following Tropical Storm Debby’s damage to the Historic Bridge Street Pier where the restaurant is a tenant, and adjacent floating dock.

Russell said the pier and long-term dock closure led to the restaurant falling behind on its $9,000 a month rent.

He said business picked back up in the ensuing months and he could afford the rent, but that the city refused to accept partial payment and the debt continued to mount.

Russell said he should have been putting each month’s rent into an escrow account, “but that was my mistake.”

Over the course of several weeks, the exact amount of money owed to the city has jumped from $54,000 to $256,000. Commissioners voted April 4 to terminate the lease with Russell and close the restaurant, but voted April 18 to delay the eviction for 30 days in hopes to negotiate a settlement with Russell.

Commissioner Ric Gatehouse has been the lone supporter on the commission of keeping the restaurant open.

On May 2, Russell presented four options to the city. He would pay the city $5,000 and turn over some of his restaurant equipment and end his lease; pay the city $15,000 and end the lease; pay $65,000 and renegotiate the lease; or simply walk away.

After much debate, commissioners voted May 2 to accept the $15,000 offer with a condition that Russell also pay his Waste Pro debt of $14,000.

Russell disputes that $14,000 bill, however, saying Waste Pro is paid a yearly fee and since his restaurant is closing this month, he does not owe the rest of the year’s bill.

In an email from city attorney Ricinda Perry dated May 5 to Russell’s attorney, William Kaklis, the agreement to accept the $15,000 and end the lease amicably and expeditiously with Russell was tentatively agreed upon.

Perry wrote that payment should be received by May 18 and the restaurant vacated by May 20.

Russell confirmed May 8 that his time on the pier was ending, and he would likely vacate the premises before the deadline.

“I’m not real happy, especially with some of the things that have been said through this process,” said Russell. “The mayor said he didn’t feel I was negotiating in good faith, and I don’t think that’s the case.”

Russell said he feels he made the city a fair offer and that the various amounts of money that was said to be owed left him confused.

“They can’t figure it out from week to week,” he said. “I don’t even know where they are coming up with those numbers.”

Russell said what the city has not shared with the public is that he also was being asked to pay 40 percent of the pier repairs and upcoming renovation project.

“So I’m paying $9,000 a month, paying the city maintenance fees and I’m supposed to pay 40 percent of the pier repairs?” he asked. “There was a comment made that people will be lining up to be the next pier concessionaire. I don’t see that happening. It would surprise me.”

Russell said the negotiations fell apart at the point of having to pay for 40 percent of pier repairs, while the pier is owned by the city, in addition to his monthly rent and maintenance fees.

The restaurant employs about 20 people. Russell said he has no immediate business plans pending, but won’t say “never.”

“My only focus right now is to end this situation with the city,” he said. “I can’t really think beyond that at this point.”

Perry’s email to Kaklis indicated the agreement between the city and Russell would be on the next city commission agenda.

However, the city has scheduled a special meeting at 9 a.m. Friday, May 17, at 107 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach.

Congressman hosts island discussion

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, whose district is Manatee and Sarasota counties, hosted what he calls a town hall “listening meeting” May 11 at Holmes Beach City Hall.

Buchanan listened and answered a number of questions from the 60-some people in attendance.

The primary concern of those at the meeting appeared to be health care and how Obamacare would affect their health insurance or Medicare and Medicaid.

Other concerns discussed were immigration, the growing federal deficit, gun control and foreign aid to countries that are not U.S. allies.

Buchanan said he is opposed to amnesty for undocumented immigrants, but agreed something has to be done to accommodate the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now in the country.

He also was adamant that defense spending should not be cut. He would halt the $2 billion annual aid package to Egypt and some other foreign countries and use that money to solve the sequester issue in Congress, which is only about $800 million, he said.

Buchanan’s main concern is the growing national debt, which was $7 trillion when he entered Congress in 2006. In the past five years, the debt has grown to $16 trillion, and the national budget is short $1 trillion.

At the present rate of federal borrowing, the national debt will exceed the government’s annual income around 2025, according to a chart Buchanan presented.

Buchanan drew a round of applause from the audience for his stance that no offshore drilling be permitted along the Florida coastline, but he favors the pipeline from Canada to Texas.

He said while the long-term impact of Obamacare is unknown, he does know the entire medical and pharmaceutical industries need reform.

Buchanan said he regularly sends constituents emails and letters to get their views on topics of interest and he values the opinions of voters.

He is co-chair of the Florida delegation to Congress that includes both Democrats and Republicans and, Buchanan said, they have compromised on many issues for the benefit of Florida.

Buchanan said it’s his wish the entire Congress would be so comprising.

HB mayor reports weapon stolen

According to a Holmes Beach Police Department report, Mayor Carmel Monti is the victim of a vehicle burglary that resulted in the theft of a .38 caliber handgun from his 2001 Toyota SUV.

The theft was reported April 22.

Monti told police the $700 revolver was between his car seats and covered with a cloth.

He later said it was in a compartment.

According to the HBPD report, the mayor “did not notice the gun was taken.” He said it could have been stolen anytime between Feb. 1 and when he discovered it missing.

Sarasota man arrested for domestic battery

A 26-year-old Sarasota man was arrested May 6 for felony domestic battery by strangulation, felony tampering with a witness and misdemeanor criminal mischief.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Zavian Benson was with his girlfriend in the 300 block of 10th Avenue in Bradenton Beach when a man called the woman’s phone.

Police say Benson accused the woman of cheating on him and placed his forearm against her throat, cutting off her air supply.

When he let go, the woman said she was going to call police, at which time Benson allegedly punched her phone, causing it to break. The phone was valued at $300.

Police were called and officers observed red marks and scratches to the woman’s neck. Benson was taken into custody, booked into the Manatee County jail and held on $8,000 bond.

He is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Friday, May 31, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Bar fight leads to arrests

A 41-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman face felony charges after a May 7 bar fight at the Anchor Inn Bar, 3007 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Richard Hasbrouck was the aggressor in a scuffle with another man at the bar.

While Hasbrouck was physically engaged with another patron, Kristi Kovaleski allegedly hit a third man with a bar stool, causing swelling and bleeding to the victim’s hand.

During a search of Hasbrouck following his arrest for misdemeanor battery, police allegedly found 1.3 grams of cocaine in his pocket.

According to the report, Hasbrouck said, “You would have never found the cocaine if I wasn’t being arrested for battery.”

Hasbrouck was arrested for misdemeanor battery and felony possession of cocaine. He was booked into the Manatee County jail on $2,000 bond and, as of Islander press time, he remained in custody.

Kovaleski was arrested on a felony battery charge. She was booked into the jail and held on $1,500 bond. As of Islander press time, she remained in custody.

Both Hasbrouck and Kovaleski were scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Friday, May 31, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Bradenton man arrested on a lewd, lascivious charges

An 18-year-old man was arrested May 1 for allegedly having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Brandon Lee Rivera met the victim at a friend’s house in Bradenton Beach April 13 and began to engage her in a sexual conversation.

The victim told police she did not want to have sex with Rivera. The two walked outside of the residence, at which time Rivera is alleged to have had sex with her.

The victim said she was in shock and did not know what to do, but eventually told Rivera to stop and, she said, he complied with her request.

According to the report, Rivera admitted to police that he had sex with the victim and was aware of her age.

Rivera was booked into the Manatee County jail and initially held on $10,000 bond, which was reduced to $7,500. According to the jail website, Rivera posted bond and was released May 5.

He is scheduled to be arraigned at the Manatee County Judicial Center at 9 a.m. Friday, May 24.

Island official seeks greater share of resort tax budget

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn was not surprised to learn that the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau announced May 8 that tourism was up for 2012 and, for 2013, already ahead of last year’s pace.

“We know tourism is growing because we see the growth of cars on the streets, the number of pedestrians and reports from retail shops and restaurants,” she said.

What she and Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman would like to see is more of the resort tax money — the 5 percent resort tax collected in Manatee County from accommodation rentals of six months or less — coming back to island cities to help with infrastructure needs to accommodate visitors.

The barrier islands generated 62 percent of $8 million collected in Manatee County resort tax funds for fiscal year 2011-12, but the four barrier island cities receive no direct funding from the county to help accommodate visitors, SueLynn said.

“We have to provide good roads, not just for 1,600 residents, but the thousands and thousands of visitor vehicles that travel our streets every day. We have to pay for that upkeep,” the mayor said.

Additionally Anna Maria has to provide adequate public restroom facilities for the 5,000-plus people who might travel to the city on a high-season weekend.

“We also have to provide parking for the visitors, yet we get nothing back, except the resort tax funds the county’s share of beach renourishment,” she said.

SueLynn and Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy have been lobbying county Commissioners John Chappie, whose district includes the islands, and Carol Whitmore, whose district is countywide, to discuss the issue at a county meeting.

Chappie and Whitmore are both island residents and should understand the problems, SueLynn said.

“I just don’t think the other commissioners realize what we have to do to provide for the visitors,” SueLynn said.

“We’d like to get a little help out here,” she added.

SueLynn has found a sympathetic ear: BACVB executive director Elliott Falcione, who inspected the Anna Maria City Pier with her recently and agreed it is in need of repairs. “(Falcione) said its condition was unacceptable,” SueLynn said, and he would look into what funds might be available for pier repairs.

SueLynn said county administrator Ed Hunzeker also was going to look at the condition of the pier, which is consistently a top tourist attraction.

All the BACVB international marketing and bringing sporting events to the county is great, but what people come for is the “old Florida atmosphere” found on Anna Maria Island, SueLynn said.

“Tourists can now find this island without any marketing scheme that costs millions of dollars,” the mayor said.

“We are the engine that drives the county economy,” Brockman added.

SueLynn said she sometimes thinks other county commissioners don’t pay enough attention to the island’s tourism-related problems.

“Just let them drive out here every day during the high season and come to Anna Maria and the city pier. They’ll soon know what it’s like to live through high tourist season,” SueLynn said.

The mayor made it clear she is not criticizing the work of the BACVB, just the distribution of resort tax funds. The bed tax money also supports the BACVB budget, its staff and the Bradenton Convention Center.

The state measure that established the resort tax allows the funding to go toward pier repairs and improvements, SueLynn said.

Before asking for assistance, the mayor wants a new marina and pier ordinance establishing a marina zone that is approved by Tallahassee, along with an agreement with the pier leaseholder to allow the city to repair the pier in exchange for a higher monthly payment.

The current leaseholder pays the city about $9,000 per month to rent the pier, bait shop and restaurant.

The TDC will next meet at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, at the county administration building in downtown Bradenton.


TDC 2012-13 fiscal-year budget

• Tax collector commissions, 3.0 percent, $196,482.

• Marketing plan, 49.2percent,       $3,159,073. (advertising, promotion)

• Administration, 12.5 percent, $803,307.

• South Florida Museum, 0.5 percent, $30,000. (second manatee)

• City of Bradenton /Pittsburgh Pirates spring training facility, 6.2 percent, $400,000.

• Bradenton area convention center, 9.3 percent, $600,000.

• Transfer for tourism-related projects, 7.8 percent, $500,000.

• Beach renourishment project,11.5 percent, $737,623.

Does not include transfers to reserves for disaster recovery, future projects, contingencies, and salary adjustments.

Island resort owner honored as tourism partner

Bradenton Beach developer and hotelier David Teitelbaum was named the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Tourism Partner of the Year for 2012.

Teitelbaum received the award May 8 at the BACVB’s National Tourism Week awards luncheon at the Bradenton Convention Center in Palmetto.

Teitelbaum said he was shocked but honored when his name was called.

“It was a total surprise. There are a lot of people in our industry deserving of this award, and I’m honored that I was chosen. I couldn’t have gotten this without a wonderful, great staff at the resorts,” he said.

Teitelbaum owns and operates four resorts in Bradenton Beach, including the Tortuga Inn Beach Resort, Tradewinds, Seaside and the Tropic Isle resorts.

BACVB executive director Elliott Falcione presented Teitelbaum with the award, saying, Teitelbaum “has created a unique hotel brand on Anna Maria Island that has personified our brand to a T.”

Falcione said the award is presented annually to a person, persons or company in the area restaurant, lodging or attractions industry that shows economic impact, does its own marketing and works with the BACVB on promotions.

Also honored at the luncheon: Paul Blackketter, the chief operating officer of the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Association, received the title of “tourism catalyst” for his work to expand tourism through developing the international sport of rowing and a host park for the sport.

The park is in contention to host the 2017 World Rowing Championships, hoped to draw athletes and coaches from 62 countries and pump about $13 million in direct spending into the Manatee-Sarasota economy.

Frederick “Rick” Piccolo, president of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, was honored with the tourism outreach award for his work to maintain airlines and flights serving the airport. In 2012, both airport and tourism officials worked to bring back United Airlines daily nonstop service from Sarasota-Bradenton to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

That deal followed the loss of AirTran Airways in August 2012.