House subcommittee postpones vote on high-speed rail bill

UPDATE, 11:05 a.m.: A citizen’s group opposing All Aboard Florida’s Brightline service has released a statement following today’s meeting.

“We are disappointed that the subcommittee did not debate the bill today, but we respect the legislative process, and look forward to more dialogue about this important legislation in due course,” said Brent Hanlon, chairman of Citizens Against Rail Expansion, also known as CARE FL. “All Aboard Florida (AAF) is taking a victory lap today in its public statements, but its latest actions are nothing more than a special interest group flexing its political muscle in a desperate attempt to protect its profits which are reliant on taxpayer subsidies. AAF continues to put the communities of South Florida on the hook for millions in upgrades to enhance safety measures and make a grab for taxpayer subsidies. We will continue to advocate for legislation that puts public safety first and we know that our elected leaders want the same. This is nothing more than an ill-conceived rail project by a private company that wants to shift costs to the taxpayers.”

ORIGINAL STORY: A House subcommittee postponed its vote this morning on a bill that would regulate high-speed passenger trains like All Aboard Florida’s Brightline.

Brightline’s second train set, dubbed BrightPink because of its color scheme, arrived in West Palm Beach on this month. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

The bill (HB 269) was to be taken up by the Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee, but members announced this morning that they were postponing the issue.

RELATED: Concern over Brightline prompts lawmakers to consider rail regulations
RELATED: Opinion: All Aboard Florida trying to keep Brightline’s future from dimming

A companion bill (SB 386) filed in the Senate cleared its first hurdle earlier this month, winning support from the Senate’s Committee on Transportation.

It would require high-speed rail companies such as All Aboard Florida to install safety features and pay for fencing along sections of its tracks where pedestrians could be at risk.

The bill also would establish minimum safety standards for high-speed rail, including the installation of Positive Train Control and Remote Health Monitoring safety technology. The features are designed to help stop a train if the engineer falls ill or a crossing gate malfunctions.

RELATED: See inside All Aboard Florida’s first Brightline train

In a statement released this morning, Brightline officials said the bill is deigned to target its passenger train service, which is set to begin operating between West Palm Beach and Miami this summer.

““The fact that the bill was pulled from the committee agenda today means the overwhelming input from groups such as the Florida Chamber and Florida TaxWatch, elected officials from key cities and newspaper editorial boards is making an impact,” said Rusty Roberts, Vice President of Government Affairs for Brightline.  “We have been saying this bill is not about safety but an attack against private property rights and is targeting our company.  Legislators are comprehending these facts, and we are appreciative.”

Butterfly exhibit coming to South Florida Science Center

The South Florida Science Center and Aquarium plans to unveil an interactive exhibit on butterflies just in time for the long summer break.

The “Amazing Butterflies” exhibit will be on display from May 6 through Sept. 29.

According to the science center the exhibit features the entire lifecycle of the butterfly.

“Visitors will experience the challenges of being a caterpillar as it transforms into a beautiful butterfly, discovering how the caterpillars eat, move and live through a hands-on maze filled with activities the whole family will enjoy,” the science center said. “Guests of all ages can learn what it’s like to fly like a butterfly, walk like a caterpillar and avoid getting stuck in a spider web. After learning about the lifecycle of the butterfly, guests can explore the butterfly gardens throughout the Science Center’s new Conservation Course, an 18-hole miniature golf course, to get an up-close look at the beautiful insects.”

Tickets to “Amazing Butterflies” are included in the general admission, which is $15 for adults, $11 for children 3-12 and free to members and children under 3.

Late Easter to bring record spending

American shoppers are expected to spend a record $18.4 billion on Easter this year — largely because of the holiday’s later-than-normal date, according to the National Retail Federation.

Easter-related spending is expected to climb by 6 percent over last record level of $17.3 billion, the federation said.

RELATED: Hoffman’s plans Easter factory tour; egg hunt

Those celebrating the holiday plan to spend an average of $152 per person, up 4 percent from last year’s record of $146, according to the trade group.

“Most consumers have almost an entire extra month to shop for Easter this year, and by the time the holiday comes the weather should be significantly warmer than last Easter,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “That should put shoppers in the frame of mind to splurge on spring apparel along with Easter decorations. With the economy improving, consumers are ready to shop and retailers are ready to offer great deals whether they’re buying Easter baskets or garden tools.”

According to the federation, consumers will spend $5.8 billion on food; $3.3 billion on clothing; $2.9 billion on gifts;, $2.6 billion on candy; $1.2 billion on flowers; $1.1 billion on decorations; and $788 million on greeting cards.

 

 

Hoffman’s plans Easter factory tour; egg hunt

Hoffman’s Chocolates plans to hold a “Hoppy Easter Celebration” on April 8 at its Greenacres chocolate factory, shoppe and ice cream parlour.

The celebration will include Eastr egg hunts, photo opportunities with the Easter Bunny, food trucks, entertainment and other family-friendly activities.

Here is the schedule of events:

Breakfast with the Easter Bunny and Chocolate Factory Tour and chocolate activity – 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

This festive, first-time event will include breakfast with the Easter Bunny featuring an all-you-can-eat, buffet-style breakfast with offerings such as eggs, bacon, sausage, cheesy hash browns, bagels, pastries, juices and coffee. The morning will also include photo opportunities with the bunny, a rare, behind-the-scenes tour of the famous Hoffman’s Chocolates Factory, a special, create-your-own chocolate bar activity and an Easter egg hunt. The egg hunt will feature approximately 5,000 eggs filled with goodies, redeemable vouchers and one extra-special egg will contain a voucher to claim a 3-foot Chocolate Bunny (valued at $299.95).  Guests can also take part in the other activities later that day. The cost for this event is $34.95 for adults, $17.95 for children ages 2-12, and children under 2 are free but will not be assigned a seat. To register visit www.Hoffmans.com/bunnybreakfast. Price of admission also gives all guests first access to the Easter egg hunt following the breakfast. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

Hoppy Easter Celebration – 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Hoffman’s Chocolates will celebrate Easter with a family-friendly afternoon including Easter egg hunts (for ages 2-12), photo opportunities with the Easter Bunny, food trucks, magic shows, entertainment, crafts and other activities in Hoffman’s beautiful Gardens. The cost for entry is $5 per person (children under 2 are free). Ice cream, Easter treats, gourmet caramel apples and other chocolates and confections will be available for sale in both The Sweet Shack in the Gardens and in the Factory Store. Tickets can be purchased at Hoffman’s Chocolates the day of the event. Please don’t forget to bring your own Easter basket.

 

 

Palm Beach County sees rise in tourism-related spending

Tourists visiting Palm Beach County spent $4.6 billion here last year, up 1 percent over 2015’s level, according to Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s official tourism marketing organization.

Although spending among Canadian visitors was down 12 percent, there was a strong increase from domestic travelers and Florida residents who visited the county, Discover said.

A plane comes in for a landing at Miami International Airport. (Getty Images)

RELATED: Check out these staycation steals for summer

Food and beverage sales, lodging, and recreational activities saw the biggest increases, the tourism group said.

A recordbreaking 7.35 million visitors traveled to Palm Beach County in 2016.

Tourism is among Palm Beach County’s largest industries, supporting more than 66,000 jobs here.

RELATED: Record-breaking 112.8 million tourists visited Florida in 2016

“For approximately 100 visitors to The Palm Beaches, one new job is supported,” said Rich Basen, Discover’s senior vice president of marketing and leisure sales. “Having more visitors means the destination has an increased overall economic benefit. It’s exciting to see increased visitation and visitor spending as result of our strategic tourism marketing efforts.”

Discover officials say 2017 is off to a strong start.

The county’s hotel occupancy rate hit 87.5 percent in February — the highest in the state, according to the tourism group said.

Hotel occupancy for the month of March is on pace to reach a record level of 89 percent which was set in 2005.

“As the tourism marketing landscape continues to change, we’ve worked to evolve and claim an even greater market share,” Basen said. “The increase in the number of visitors here proves our strategies are paying off, which, in turn, continues to spur more economic growth for Palm Beach County.”

Check out these staycation steals for summer

Spring break may be over, but local tourism leaders are promoting a handful of deals for Palm Beach County residents looking for summer staycation.

Discover The Palm Beaches, Palm Beach County’s official tourism marketing arm, has put together a list of deals for both locals and out-of-town residents.

A view of the Palm Deck at the grand opening of the Hilton hotel that is connected to the Palm Beach County Convention Center was held in West Palm Beach, Florida on January 29, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The list includes special offers on area hotels and upcoming events in the area. Here it is:

ACCOMMODATION PACKAGES & DEALS:

The Breakers: Complimentary Daily Benefits
The Breakers’ Family Entertainment Center, outdoor playground and Camp Breakers satisfy today’s families who want their children to enjoy memorable experiences while on vacation. Meals are free for kids (ages 12 and under), unlimited golf and tennis and an array of other complimentary amenities, such as high-speed WiFi and access to the indoor-outdoor Ocean Fitness center are also included. Summer is prime time to savor the Palm Beach luxury lifestyle at The Breakers. Rates are valid May 1 – October 31, 2017 and are from $369 per room, per night during the week (Sunday-Thursday) and from $469 per night on weekends. Some restrictions may apply.

Crane’s Beach House Boutique Hotel & Luxury Villas: Summer SUN-CATIONS Discounts
Experience the balance of a tranquil hotel that offers easy accessibility to Delray Beach’s popular Atlantic Avenue, which boasts more than 100 boutique shops and over 110 restaurants in a walkable distance. At Crane’s Beach House Boutique Hotel, all ground floor rooms now have access to semi-private back patios, while second floor living areas have balconies overlooking one of the two swimming pools or Tiki Bars. The Summer SUN-CATION Discounts are perfect for any budget conscious traveler: Save 25 percent off of one night, or save 30 percent off of two nights or more. The applicable stay dates for these special offers are between April 30 and October 5, 2017. Some restrictions and blackout dates may apply. Tax and gratuities are not included. Valid on new reservations only. Deadline to book is April 11, 2017.

Delray Beach Marriott: Stay for Breakfast Package
Nestled on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Delray Beach Marriott offers spacious accommodations, including luxurious villas fit for families of all sizes. Endless activities await with a stay at this Mediterranean-style hotel, featuring delicious cuisine from three onsite restaurants and lounges, a full service spa offering a wide variety of revitalizing services and two resort style pools. Enjoy the sights and sounds of Atlantic Avenue with daily entertainment, exceptional dining and spectacular shopping, just a short walk away. Book the Stay for Breakfast package and receive daily breakfast for two. Rates for this package are from $209 per night. Additional seasonal packages are available, here.

Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa: Girls Getaway Package
Here in The Palm Beaches, friends are family, too. So whether you’re strolling the shops on Worth Avenue, or spending the day in a robe on a champagne and cupcake diet at the Eau Spa, relaxed luxury is this summer’s theme at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa. The Girls’ Getaway package includes a glass of champagne upon arrival, complimentary beach bag, luxurious accommodations for two nights, choice of one spa treatment daily per person, complimentary one-way transportation to Worth Avenue or Downtown Delray Beach and more. Rates are from $779 ($1,018 value) per night. For more information or to book, visit EauPalmBeach.com and use promo code GIRLS. A minimum two-night stay is required and the package is available for up to two persons per room. Based on availability and cannot be combined with any other offers.

Hilton Garden Inn Palm Beach Gardens: Bed N’ Breakfast Package
Surrounded by a serene and lush setting, featuring Palm Beach Gardens’ only outdoor lakefront gazebo, the lakefront Hilton Garden Inn Palm Beach Gardens is just a 12-minute drive from Palm Beach International Airport, and a short 10-minute drive to pristine beaches. Visitors booking the Bed N’ Breakfast Deal package will enjoy a Keurig Brewing System in every room, favorite breakfast foods cooked to order including omelets, bacon, French toast and more. Sleep in on the weekends and enjoy Lazy Breakfast service until 11:00 a.m. Rates are from $84 per night. Based on availability at time of booking. Restrictions may apply.

Hilton West Palm Beach: Family Fun Package
At Hilton West Palm Beach, discover a family-fun floatation menu with a variety exotic pool floats, including a large purple unicorn or a swan for two. Dry off after an evening swim with glow-in-the-dark lawn games, including bocce ball, bag toss and cornhole, and end the night with a dine-in movie by the pool. Daily breakfast and internet access are included when booking the Family Fun package. Rates from $179 per night.

Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa: Little Loggerhead Package
The only all-suite beachfront resort in The Palm Beaches offers spacious accommodations with in-suite kitchens for families of all sizes. Book the Little Loggerhead package to receive overnight accommodations for two adults and two children (minimum of two nights), a private tour of the Loggerhead Marinelife Center and participation in Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s Adopt a Sea Turtle program. Additional family-friendly activities include Discover Scuba, Kid’s Club, metal detecting on the beach, seashell painting, a two-story waterslide at the lagoon pool and more. Rates for this package are from $324 per night. A percentage of the package revenue is donated to Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

West Palm Beach Marriott: Stay Longer and Pay Less in South Florida Package
Spend more time discovering West Palm Beach and save with the Stay Longer and Pay Less in South Florida package at West Palm Beach Marriott. Save up to 15 percent off of regular rates when booking seven or more consecutive nights. Rates are from $169 per night and are valid through June 30, 2017. Tax is not included. Additional rates may apply. Additional seasonal packages can be found, here.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY HAPPENINGS:

Dine Out Downtown Delray Restaurant Week 2017
The second annual Dine Out Downtown Delray Restaurant Week 2017 will take place August 1 – 7, 2017. The event will feature special multi-course prix fixe lunch and dinner menus and various culinary experiences, including wine and beer tastings, food pairing dinners, a juicing and nutrition class, cocktail classes, chef demonstrations and more from Downtown Delray Beach restaurants and merchants. Prices range from $10 and under for dine out deals, from $20 and under for multi- course prix fixe lunches and between $20 and $40 for multi- course prix fixe dinners. Additional culinary event prices vary by restaurant and merchant. Pricing does not include tax or gratuity.

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park: Seasonal Programs
The John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is an environmental treasure with four different habitats within the boarders, including nearly two miles of pristine beach where visitors can swim, snorkel and fish in the clear blue waters of the Atlantic. Participate in various seasonal programs, including the Butterfly Talk & Walk Program (available May – October), Intro to Surfing (children 10 years and up), Intro to Kayak Fishing and/or Intro to Snorkeling by calling reservations at (561) 624-6952. All seasonal programs are free with park admission. Other park amenities include the Nature & Welcome Center, Beach Outfitters Gift Shop, Kayak Rentals, a children’s playground, nature trails, and picnicking facilities. 

Maltz Jupiter Theatre: Summer Performance Series
Reconnect with entertainment options for the entire family available from April through July 2017. Students from the Theatre’s Goldner Conservatory of Performing Arts will perform the musicals The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, Jr. (April 29 and 30), West Side Story (May 12 and 13), Guys and Dolls (June 23 and 24), Godspell (July 1 and 2) and James and the Giant Peach, Jr. (July 28 and 29). Tickets to all student shows are $20 for students and $25 for adults.

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens: Sushi & Stroll Summer Walk Series
The Morikami Sushi & Stroll Summer Walk Series will begin May 12, 2017 and occur the second Friday of every month through September 8, 2017. The Series, which returns with a new picnicking area featuring local food trucks and popular Japanese snacks, offers guests a tranquil, twilight stroll through the 16-acre gardens with memorable sunset views and exhilarating taiko drumming performances by Fushu Daiko. Admission is $8 for adults (ages 11+), $6 for children (ages 4-10) and free for museum members and children ages three and under. Museum galleries are closed during Sushi & Stroll. Food and drink are sold separately and are not included in the admission price. 

Mounts Botanical Garden of Palm Beach County: Windows on the Floating World
Windows on the Floating World at the new Blume Tropical Wetland Gardens will open in May 2017. The space’s largest garden in its 40 year history features a series of see-through walkways and moveable aquatic plants that will allow visitors to connect to the tropical wetlands around them. Additional highlights will include waterfalls flowing over natural stone, an area for wading birds and a wall covered with Bromeliads, offering some of the best foliage colors in the plant kingdom. This new garden is included in admission for a suggested donation of $5 per person.

Norton Museum of Art: Bastille Day Celebration & Art After Dark Series
The Norton Museum of Art’s annual Bastille Day Celebration will expand in 2017 and move to Saturday, July 15, 2017 from noon until 5:00 p.m. The celebration will include music, film, language lessons, food, drink, and art presented with a French twist. Additionally, Norton Museum’s Art After Dark, a fascinating mix of art, music, film and more, continues throughout the summer from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. on Thursday evenings. Tickets for these events and for general admission to the museum through December 2018 are free of charge.

Palm Beach Zoo: Summer Events

·         Roar & Pour: May 13 – August 12, 2017
Enjoy an evening in the Zoo with live music, food and drink. The party starts on May 13, 2017 at 4:30 p.m. with a special $10 admission rate. Grownups can enjoy an adult beverage from the Tiki Bar including a local craft brewery tap-takeover. As the sun sets gather at the Fountain Plaza for the 7:30 p.m. performance of a 1980’s or 1990’s tribute band, which will conclude at 9:00 p.m. Roar & Pour will take place the second Saturday of each month, May through August 2017.

·         Food Truck Safari: May 27, 2017
Explore the Zoo in search of favorite wildlife and The Palm Beaches’ best gourmet food trucks. The trucks are spread throughout the Zoo with two live music locations and two cash bars. The Fountain Plaza Tiki Bar features a local craft brewery tap-takeover. This event will take place on May 27, 2017 from 4:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Additional information will be announced in the coming weeks.

·         Safari Nights: June 2 – August 25, 2017
On Friday evenings beginning June 2 through August 25, 2017, families are invited to participate in the Palm Beach Zoo’s Safari Nights. Play in the interactive fountain, create arts and crafts, jam to a kids DJ, enjoy up-close animal encounters and more. Each week has a different theme, such as pirate night, fairytale night, dinosaur night, etc., and kids are encouraged to dress to match the theme to enter into an end-of-summer prize drawing.

West Palm Beach Food Tours

Kristl Story, owner of West Palm Beach Food Tours, talks to a group of LGBT bloggers and travel writers taking part in a food tour of downtown West Palm Beach Friday, April 1, 2016. Their first stop was The Blind Monk. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)


Tour West Palm Beach during a delicious and entertaining three-hour walking and driving tour. With a multi-generational appeal, West Palm Beach Food Tours offer a great opportunity for all ages to eat their way through their vacation. Tickets are from $65 for adults and from $45 for children ages 4-12. Children age three and under are free of charge. West Palm Beach Food Tours offers 20 percent off with discount code “Family”.

 

 

Need a job? 5 things to know about Career Expo this month

CareerSource and Boynton Beach city officials are co-hosting a “Career Hiring Event” March 23. Here are the key details:

  1. CareerSource says some 30 national and local employers are seeking to fill hundreds of jobs.
  2. The event is free.
  3. Job seekers are asked to dress professionally and to bring updated copies of resumes.
  4. It’s recommended you register ahead of time as a job seeker at EmployFlorida.com.
  5. Access more information about the job fair. at:  www.careersourcepbc.com.
The expo is March 23 at the Carolyn Sims Center, 225 NW 12th Avenue, Boynton Beach

Here is the official press release on the event.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Who:

Nearly 30 local and national employers are participating in a Career Expo Hiring Event hosted by CareerSource Palm Beach County and the City of Boynton Beach. Employers at the event include Allied Universal, City of Boynton Beach, Florida Atlantic University, Hartland ManorCare, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Publix, Starbucks, Walgreens, Wells Fargo and more.

What:

Employers will be interviewing candidates and hiring onsite to fill immediate job openings in Palm Beach County. There is no charge to attend. Dress in professional business attire and bring printed copies of your resume. For faster entry, participants are encouraged to register in advance as a job seeker at EmployFlorida.com

When/Where:

March 239:00 a.m. to noon (8:30 a.m. entrance for veterans only)

Carolyn Sims Center, 225 NW 12th Avenue, Boynton Beach

 

Will J.C. Penney stores close Palm Beach County stores?

The quick answer: No.

The retail chain will close only two stores in Florida. They are the locations at the Jacksonville Regional Shopping Center and Palatka Mall.

J.C. Penney’s two Palm Beach County stores, at Wellington Green and Boynton Beach Mall, will remain open.

Shoppers wait in line for the 3pm opening specials outside JC Penney at the Mall at Wellington Green on November 24, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Overall, J.C. Penney will shutter 138 stores across the country — almost a quarter of the total in just in four states. Nine will close in Texas, eight in Minnesota and seven each in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Store close-out sales, the company said, will start in April and the stores will be closed by the middle of June. After that, J.C. Penney will still list about 900 stores.

In addition to J.C. Penney, RadioShack, Hhgregg, Macy’s, BCBG Maxazria and American Apparel have all announced closures in recent weeks.

Wawa in Palm Beach County: 3 stores open next week

Wawa, a family-owned chain of convenience stores known for its fanatical following, will open three stores on Thursday, marking its first push into the South Florida market.

The chain, which is headquartered in Wawa, Pa, has earned a reputation for serving up hot coffee and tasty sandwiches along with its gas sales.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Steve Abrams and Mayor Shelley Vana with a Wawa mascot.

In Palm Beach County, die-hard fans will be treated to giveaways, discounts and deals as part of the triple-header grand opening celebration.

RELATED: City commissioner: Wawa wants to open in Boynton Beach

Wawa is opening two locations in Palm Springs and one in Riviera Beach on Thursday.  All doors open at 8 a.m.

Here is the ribbon cutting schedule:

9 a.m.

3950 South Congress Avenue in Palm Springs

12:30 p.m.

1771 South Congress Avenue in Palm Springs

3 p.m.

7289 Garden Road, Riviera Beach

All three locations will be serving up free coffee for 10 days following the opening. The first 100 customers at the 3950 S. Congress Ave. location will receive special giveaway items.

RELATED: Wawa says Hello to Palm Beach County

Wawa announced in 2015 that it planned to open dozens of stores in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

Wawa opened its first Florida location outside of SeaWorld in Orlando in 2012.

This local eatery now serving up items at PBIA

Paneterie, a European bakery and cafe with locations in West Palm Beach and Delray Beach, is now offering “grab and go” items at Palm Beach International Airport.

photo provided

A number of sandwiches, salads, snack boxes and sweet treats, are available at the Flagler Gourmet Market, which is located in Concourse B.

RELATED: This store just opened at the PB Outlets

Palm Beach County Airports Director Bruce Pelly said passengers are looking for fresh and local food options, adding that all airport eateries are required to offer “street pricing.”

The Flagler Gourmet Market is run by the Paradies Shops, the Atlanta-based company that operates the stores at the airport.