Restaurateur opposes ice-rink plan


Restaurateur opposes ice-rink plan


Date: September 9, 2010
by: Robin Roy | City Editor


The Sept. 15 deadline to secure a deposit for a proposed downtown ice rink is fast approaching. And although there is support in the community and at City Hall, at least one prominent business owner is hoping the funds don’t come through.

J.P. Knaggs, owner of Bijou Café, 1287 First St., said a plan to put a skating rink in November and December on First Street between Selby Library and Selby Five Points Park would hamper business for him and others.

“I’m vehemently opposed to closing First Street at a time the opera is on,” he said. “A thousand people descend on that place. It’s like Times Square. If that street is closed, it’ll be total chaos.”

Knaggs said he and other business owners can’t afford to turn away any customers, especially for two months during the height of tourist season.

“It’s hard enough to make a living in this economy,” he said. “Every penny counts.”

The Sarasota Opera did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The idea behind the ice rink is to generate business for downtown. Two members of the Downtown Sarasota Alliance, developer John Simon and former Mayor Mary Anne Servian, are leading the effort to install an 85-foot-by-40-foot rink on First Street from a week before Thanksgiving to Jan. 3.

They believe it will be a big draw for families and tourists and will bring them downtown to play, shop and dine.

Servian said other cities that have similar ice rinks, such as Ocala and Orlando, draw a minimum of 30,000 people per season.

“Every single community we’ve talked to has restaurants with lines out the door,” she said.

No admission would be charged for entrance into Sarasota’s covered ice rink, but there would be a charge for skate rental.

Simon has been busy trying to secure enough money to place a deposit on the rink. The city has promised to provide a $25,000 loan and to waive more than $100,000 in permit fees. The Downtown Improvement District is considering offering a $15,000 loan. The county balked at funding.

With about $150,000 needed in a week, Simon is now busy pitching the idea to the private sector.

Knaggs said he likes the idea of a skating rink in Sarasota, just not at its proposed location.

“If it’s just for kids to skate, the amphitheater at Payne Park is perfect,” he said. “Or there are other empty lots around town. They’re going to make me sound like a Scrooge, but I just can’t see closing First Street.”

Servian said she has spoken to Knaggs about his concerns and urged him to take advantage of the crowds by handing out coupons, for example.

“Everybody else is excited about this opportunity,” she said.

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Currently 8 Responses

  • 1.
  • Well: the rink never got under way. Sad shame. Isn't there another place to put a rink like this?
  • vikki Lampros
    Sun 4th Mar 2012
    at 5:22pm
  • 2.
  • Hello,
    I usually don't go out of my way to voice an opinion, However here I go for the first time...
    I quite frankly think that having a rink in Downtown Sarasota is one of the best ideas I have heard about for Sarasota
    since my grandparents (God rest their blessed and loved souls) moved here from Chicago over 45 years ago!
    The rink in St. Augustine (same type) brings many people in to the town, as do every other rink n the country that is doing this.
    While the kids skate the parents either skate or shop or eat and possibly drink a bit. Kids have their birthday and Holiday parties on this type of rink as well.
    In my book that adds up to more business, am I wrong? I have managed a business on Maine Street and there is nothing in that area for kids, just the retired and adults approx. over 35. If this is something for the kids to do in the downtown area why wouldn't this be more business? The Mote Aquarium, Selby Gardens, and a few hours of outdoor ice skating in Florida... fun in the sun during the Holidays. How fun is that??
    More people brings more business, not less.

    Do you realize how many children skate in the North, East, West and Canada? Skaters skate even on vacation!
    They would all love to try an outdoor skating Rink in the Florida sun, while visiting here, to them it is sunny and warm they will be out there in Shorts while some of us are at home freezing complaining about how cold it is outside waiting for this gastly summer heat again only to complain about how hot it is!
    I have skated and coached for over 34 yeqrs at these types of rinks and the business is great. I think that Sarasotans (I am one for well over ten years now) would be happy for any added venue to make our resident children, active adult, and our Tourist Friends happy, especially in this economy!

    For those of you complaining, I hope that you will have your first opportunity to try skating and if you haven't ice skated outdoors in the south before you will have the time of your life! I will be glad to help you learn.
    Who knows.... after a few fun hours of skating, since you are right there, how about walking over to get a few plates of amazing food at the closest tapas restaurant, or pizza out on the corner, or a white table cloth meal by the opera house, or walk over to the Marina to look at "boats", or maybe since you are downtown already on the first weekend of the month you may just stay for evening fun on Maine Street instead of staying home, complaining about how cold it is, as well!
    Think of the positive of this whole great new idea, lots of people on a closed street, well, as people walk by, they will have a better chance to look in the window of that fabulous place, a place that they may have never have even known about!
    Oh and for myself? I didn't even know how to find that street for the longest time, six years to be exact, because it is a very convoluted area to drive around in.

    Now people will discover just how great First street is instead of saying" Isn't that a bad section of town?" 'WHERE? Jee, I don't even know where that street is, haven't been to that street yet!" “First Street for what? No, I am going to take the kids to Siesta Key this weekend”

    Yep, you betcha, that I think that this is even a better idea for Sarasota, better than First Friday, which by the way, I believe, is only once a month!
    I just can't wait for the skating rink!!
  • vikki Lampros
    Tue 28th Sep 2010
    at 9:13pm
  • 3.
  • Isn't there enough room in Five Points Park itself for the rink? If not one this exact size, perhaps smaller?

    Might get the homeless a little exercise, especially if the charities give them skate rental vouchers. Then they would not be sitting on the benches while skating.
  • Pete Theisen
    Sun 12th Sep 2010
    at 1:46pm
  • 4.
  • I believe while your intentions are good to give a notalgic ice skating rink to the five points downtown .....your reasons are misplaced . This is not a time for your intentions . We are all in economic struggle . This does not warrant any good .. other than fuff on our very current striff of making things practical rather than spending on unnessary funds . People of all profeessions are being layed off daily . This is the reality . You in return want to hinder with a play ground for kids to ice skate in downtown Sarasota which also will hinder theaters and restaraunts ...that will endure more striff for your idea of grander . Let me a nobody .. say clearly . Bad idea . First It serves no purpose . It will not bring downtown what you expect . It will hurt the theaters as well restaruants . Why .....? Because we are already hurting everyone . If you make another choas of downtown in the months to come . Well ....I believe you are shooting us all in the foot . Including yourself for what your position is . Listen to what I'm saying're making popcorn ....we need vegetables !
  • Grayson Puett
    Sat 11th Sep 2010
    at 5:23am
  • 5.
  • Sorry Mr. Johnson but you're wrong. Yes it's a short street with little parking but the parking garage will not be completed by then and the valets will have to use 1st street to get the cars out of there and parked.
    I am speaking from 25 years of experience. Every time there is some event that closes streets it hurts our business. I'm not making this up. Perhaps if I had a hot dog place or a saloon it would be different, but I have a fine dining, destination establishment that people don't just drop in for a bite!
  • JP Knaggs
    Fri 10th Sep 2010
    at 7:15pm
  • 6.
  • I've been to the Bijou Cafe and I doubt Mr. Knaggs will benefit much by handing out coupons to the crowds, as the former mayor suggests. I would suggest however, based on the successful formula that Mr, Knaggs has developed for his restaurant, that if he says the rink will have a negative impact on his business, then it will!

    What really astounds me is that the concept requires more than One Hundred Thousand Dollars in permitting fees, an incentive killer to growth and job creation if ever there was one...unless you are an insider and can get those fees waived. Oh, and can we borrow 25 Grand for our idea? But it's all for the common good, of course.

    Brian Clark
  • Brian Clark
    Fri 10th Sep 2010
    at 6:37am
  • 7.
  • One thing that articles like this typically fail to mention is the impact these ideas would have on the employees. Instead these types of authors always want to make it sound like it, in this case the closing of streets, is only detrimental to the proprietor. Mr. Knaggs has very loyal employee's and there is a reason for that. He is not speaking out against the closing of First Street only for himself and his family but also for his employees and theirs.

    Downtown employees just dealt with first street being closed for the round-a-bout which KILLED downtown business. WE, the employees of downtown establishments, would HATE to see any more streets closed at any point especially at the very beginning of our season.

    Frankly, I think the article was very antagonistic. Especially with Roy's ending. He/She has put, in a sense, Mr. Knaggs up against everyone who isn't willing to see his/our perspective by choosing to end the article with the quote from Mary Anne Servian. Not to pick on Servian but really the idea of handing out coupons might be a good idea, but NOT during season!!! A business should hand out coupons when they need to bring in business, not to give discounts to folks who are already coming in. Furthermore, if this skating rink in its proposed location its going to bring all kinds of money to the downtown, where folks will be "lining out the doors" of downtown establishments, then why especially then would anyone need to hand out coupons???

    Just an aside to Mr. Johnson, I respectfully disagree with you. Right NOW is notoriously slow. We, service employees, CAN'T wait for November and December so we can start to see some business and start to make some money again. Furthermore, again just an aside, I couldn't find anywhere in the article that stated that Mr. Knaggs was concerned with "parking or vehicular congestion".

    Here is one question that should be asked: What if this does happen and we don't see the expected return? Are we, citizens of Sarasota, ok with giving away $100,000.00 in permit fees to fund such a project. This is especially perplexing to me because a couple of weeks ago in the Herald Tribune they wrote an article on how The City of Sarasota is trying to remove the tax exemption status of Marina Jack ( to add to the revenue of The City. Just to be clear, Marina Jack should pay taxes! However, why is it ok to possibly throw away $100,000.00 in revenue in one circumstance but not ok to continue throwing away the revenue from Marina Jack?
  • Andrew Vandyke
    Thu 9th Sep 2010
    at 10:28pm
  • 8.
  • Mr. Knaggs is not seeing the whole picture. That block of first street is short and offers minimal parking...his restaurant's access in not being affected at all. In reality, The Bijou will be one of the main benefactors of this ice rink. How many more potential customers will discover his restaurants existence...? The 3 weeks leading up to Christmas are notoriously slow for all restaurants and especially for those located downtown... This event will help all businesses downtown... By the time the holidays pass the new parking garage is scheduled to be completed so this should elimate Mr. Knaggs concerns about traffic and vehicular congestion.

    The Ice Rink is a Great Idea!

    A Downtown Business Owner
  • Daniel Johnson
    Thu 9th Sep 2010
    at 5:59pm
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