2017-08-10 / Top News

ENDLESS SEASON

Summer is time for the locals to shine at area restaurants and resorts.
FLORIDA WEEKLY STAFF

FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY, PALM BEACH

County has been a winter retreat.

Well into the 1980s, stores along Palm Beach’s Worth Avenue would be shuttered, as locally owned businesses and hotels closed for the season and their staffs often headed north along with their customers.

But it would seem the area now is more of a year-round place.

There still are lines at restaurants, but now it is the locals who are waiting.

“They come back and support us offseason,” said Adam Brown, chef at The Cooper in Palm Beach Gardens.

Hotels are entertaining locals with spa packages, as well as continuing to draw customers from outside the area.

“We’ve had great success in our goal to create an endless season,” said John L. Parkinson, general manager at the Hilton that’s adjacent to the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach.

Region continues to grow as a destination – even in summer

BY MARY THURWACHTER

mthurwachter@floridaweekly.com

“The Palm Beaches as a destination continues to grow as a popular vacation option year-round,” according to Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover the Palm Beaches, the official tourism marketing corporation for Palm Beach County.

“The numbers for June indicate our strategic marketing efforts continue to support a healthy tourism economy for Palm Beach County,” Mr. Pesquera said.

“June was another strong month across all measurable metrics,” he said. Occu


PARKINSON PARKINSON

pancy was up 1.9 percent, ranking seventh in Florida. Room nights sold has grown by 2.8 percent, staying at the May 2017 place of seventh place in the state.

“More visitors are coming here from historical markets in the northeast target

ed by Discover the Palm Beaches and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, as well as from new markets that we began targeting two years ago, such as Chicago, Atlanta and Orlando,” Mr. Pesquera said. “We’re seeing more business and leisure travelers. Two large groups that held their large conventions here in June helped to boost our overall numbers,” Mr. Pesquera said.


Galley at the Hilton West Palm Beach. 
COURTESY PHOTOS Galley at the Hilton West Palm Beach. COURTESY PHOTOS Some local inns are seeing a slight increase in revenue this year.

For the first off-season quarter 2017 (May, June, July) compared to the same period in 2016, Grandview Gardens Bed & Breakfast in West Palm Beach is up 5 percent in revenue, said Peter Emmerich, one of the owners.

“This is mainly due to the fact that the market allowed us to raise the room rates slightly,” Mr. Emmerich said. “But in terms of occupancy we see a slight softening — certainly due to increased competition from large and attractive new hotels in downtown West Palm Beach. The outlook for the next quarter is similar.”


A room at Grandview Gardens, where revenues are up, thanks to a rate increase, but occupancy is down slightly — possibly because of increased competition, says one of its owners. A room at Grandview Gardens, where revenues are up, thanks to a rate increase, but occupancy is down slightly — possibly because of increased competition, says one of its owners. One of those attractive new hotels is the 400-room Hilton, next to the convention center, which opened at the beginning of 2016. General Manager John L. Parkinson says occupancy there is up 25 percent over a year ago.

“We’ve had great success in our goal to create an endless season,” Mr. Parkinson said. “Guests are enjoying the Friday night live bands, Saturday brunch and Drive in Movies.”

The hotel partnered with a local artist, Ron Burkhardt, who designed beach towels for the property. As part of its twonight Summer of Fun package (offered through Sept. 30), guests get a towel, two gelato vouchers and one 80-ounce SPF lotion. The deal also includes admission for two to the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium and the Palm Beach Zoo as well as a $25 gift card to Revolutions Bowling at CityPlace.


The Hilton West Palm Beach opened next to the Palm Beach County Convention Center. The Hilton West Palm Beach opened next to the Palm Beach County Convention Center. To attract business during the off-season, Grandview Gardens B&B offers 20 percent to 30 percent lower rates than during the season.

“Some come for the cultural/anniversary/ romantic packages,” Mr. Emmerich said. “And more than ever, we closely monitor on-line, automated booking channels like Expedia, Booking.com and Airbnb to grasp last-minute bookings.”

At PGA National Resort & Spa, Kathy Casper, vice president of marketing, said summer has become a busy season for South Florida, and in particular PGA National, over the past few years.


The pool area at the Hilton plays host to a variety of events to lure guests. The pool area at the Hilton plays host to a variety of events to lure guests. “Some weekends we are forecasting 85 percent or better occupancies, Ms. Casper said. “More people are staycationing and we have implemented summer programming and specials for our members and customers. We have great summer camps as well, including our golf and tennis camps.

“A new program that we implemented and is very popular is our two adjoining rooms, great for families and friends, with summer rates for the two rooms for only $199, plus tax and resort fees. We also have unlimited golf play for only $95 per person double. These are reductions off our winter programming, but with all the same great features and resort amenities for our guests to enjoy.”

PGA National Resort public relations director Karen Cantor said as a resort, they have had to think outside of the box to bring in resort guests during summer when numbers are not as high as usual.


PESQUERA PESQUERA “We target locals looking for staycation experiences and then create unforgettable experiences that we know they will enjoy,” Ms. Cantor said. “Our annual Craft Beer Bash (Aug. 19) is an example of this. We created the festival six years ago and had changed it every year making improvements. An otherwise very slow weekend in August has turned into one of the most popular, sold out weekends to stay here this summer. We expect that weekend to sell out this year again.

“We produce the event from scratch and on our own, and then market it as a beer experience with a room package component. In comparison, other similar festivals cannot offer an amazing resort with overnight accommodations to their guests so that they can extend the experience with a room package, an after party and a ‘hangover’ brunch the next morning in our restaurant. It ideally is a win-win for the guests to enjoy beers from all over the world in addition to a resort getaway for a reasonable cost. Plus, it allows our guests to drink responsibly, which we highly encourage.”


EMMERICH EMMERICH Locals flock to restaurants off-season

BY JAN NORRIS

jnorris@floridaweekly.com

While summer slow-down is felt by some restaurants, others are doing better than in past years, according to owners.

Business that comes courtesy of a few conventions, plus local diners relieved to get a seat at their favorite restaurants again, are helping shore up the summer slump for some. Others are attracting diners with meal deals that give the curious incentives to try a new spot.


CANTOR CANTOR At Table 26 in West Palm Beach, co-owner Edward Schmidt says this summer is busier than last year’s, due in part to “staycationers.”

“It seems that as summers go by, year after year it gets busier and busier with more people living here year-round,” he said. Too, he said, “We get people who live within the state visiting the Palm Beaches.”

Area events gave the late season a boost, he said, pointing to the Diana Ross concert at the Kravis Center in June.

“We were completely sold out, and doing the same cover counts as we would in season,” he said. “Sure, there’s some inconsistent days due to weather, however, overall, things are on the up and up and we are beating last year’s covers in sales.”

A bustling lunch business also helps, he said.

Adam Brown, chef at The Cooper in Palm Beach Gardens, finds at his eatery in the PGA Commons business is a little slower off-season, particularly midweek.


The Fazio course at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. The Fazio course at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. “But we see more of the locals now — they come back and support us offseason,” he said.

The kitchen can take it easier, too, and it gives them time to try out new dishes. They also have time to host special events such as a recent beer-pairing dinner. Another is scheduled for Aug. 31 with Twisted Trunk, a local brewery.

Weekends still draw crowds, he said, particularly for Sunday brunch.

Buccan in Palm Beach and Grato in West Palm Beach, two of chef Clay Conley’s restaurants, are doing well, according to general manager Andy Dugard.

“The summer seems to be great,” he said. “It isn’t a myth or legend that people leave the island, but we’re doing OK, busy all week but especially Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.”


SCHMIDT SCHMIDT More people, and especially families, seem to be staying throughout the summer, or at least a part of it, he said.

“I don’t know whether it has to do with younger families who would be in the Hamptons or New York City as adults. Now that they’ve got the kids, they spend more time here, maybe just a couple weeks up North.”

Imoto, the sushi restaurant next door to Buccan is a case in point.

“We used to close Imoto on Sundays and Mondays, June through September. This summer, through popular demand, we stayed open. We decided we just had to keep it open, and it’s doing OK on Monday and Tuesday.

“Grato is doing fantastic. We have a wonderful Sunday brunch, and it’s busy throughout summer — especially on weekends there. It was like the guest who jumped up and asked me on a Friday night, ‘Is this January, or July?’ It was as busy as in season.”


DUGARD DUGARD Not all are doing as well, with varying reasons. Over in Palm Beach, Thierry Beaud, owner of PB Catch Seafood & Raw Bar, says road construction may have played a part in the bigger slow-down at his restaurant.

“This summer has been slower,” he said. “The uncertainty of bridge access has been a big factor, especially for us being on the north end.”

Several restaurants closed after season along Royal Poinciana Way for rebuilds or possibly permanently. Long-timer Testa’s is in a building that will be torn down and replaced, but not until at least 2018. It is still unknown if it will return elsewhere. Cucina dell’Arte farther west on that strip, closed temporarily for refurbishment.

All these helped draw traffic to the north end.


Adam Brown, chef at The Cooper in Palm Beach Gardens, says he sees more locals during summer. 
LIBBYVISION Adam Brown, chef at The Cooper in Palm Beach Gardens, says he sees more locals during summer. LIBBYVISION Restaurants still there, however, may now see more tables filled as the Flagler Bridge, under construction for years, finally opened to traffic the first of the month, and Flagler Drive now is open to the bridge ramps both north and south.

The north end of Palm Beach County’s scene also is somewhat slower, according to Tim Lipman, co-owner of the Coolinary Café at Donald Ross Village, at the northern edge of Palm Beach Gardens.

“It hasn’t been a terrible summer so far. We are pretty happy. In all honesty, though, we have seen quite a drop.

“We are having some really good days, then some not so good.”

He attributes it to both competition for diners and seasonal residents.

“In North County, (Palm Beach) Gardens in particular, I can say there have been a lot of restaurant openings in the past few years, and don’t think the demographic has completely caught up. It’s crazy.”

But his 6-month-old venture The Parched Pig, a wine and beer bar with upscale bar foods in the same plaza, is surpassing expectations, he said.

Typically crowded on weekends, it becomes a waiting spot for Coolinary Café reservations. But it also does well during the week as a locals’ watering hole.

“The Pig is actually doing really well,” Mr. Lipman said. “We are very grateful for the way the community has embraced us.” ¦

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