Record number of tourists visited Florida during first half of 2017

A record 60.7 million tourists visited Florida during the first six months of 2017, marking the highest tourism count ever recorded between January and June, Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday.

The record tourism level comes amid a difficult year for the state’s tourism marketing organization, Visit Florida, which faced budget cuts and saw the departure of several of its top executives following criticism over its $1 million contract with performing artist Pitbull. After a bitter debate between the governor and some lawmakers, state officials agreed to restore Visit Florida’s funding, but Palm Beach County tourism officials have raised concerns that new restrictions placed on the state marketing group after the fallout could hinder its efforts to bring tourists here.

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

RELATED: Tourists continue to visit Florida in record numbers

Last year’s hurricanes, the Zika virus and the Jan. 6 mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport were also a blow to the sate’s tourism industry.

Despite the crises, Scott said Florida’s tourism industry has continued to flourish. The number of visitors who traveled to the state between January and June grew by 4.1 percent over the same period last year, Scott’s office said.

MORE: How social media influencer sells Palm Beach County tourism

“With the investments made in Visit Florida during this year’s special legislative session, we can continue to break records and work toward our goal of 120 million visitors this year,” Scott said. “Florida’s booming tourism industry supports 1.4 million jobs across the state, and I know that Visit Florida and their many local partners are continuing to focus on breaking more records in order to help create even more opportunities for our families.”

When E.F. Hutton called, restaurateur listened

Hutton Seafood & Raw Bar opening later this month in Northwood

There’s a new restaurant opening soon in West Palm Beach’s Northwood section.  The restaurant is called Hutton. The restaurant owner’s name is Tim.

But Timothy Hutton, the actor, is nowhere near this eatery.

Instead, owner Tim Klinefelter drew inspiration elsewhere.

Before delving into that story, however, it’s important to understand what Klinefelter was not going to name it: Klinefelter.

“I would never name a restaurant that,” he said, laughing.

Restaurant names should convey something about the place, be simple to remember and yet somehow, memorable.

Spouses or family members are easy names to turn to for a restaurant moniker. But many restaurateurs privately admit they default to naming their restaurants after their pets (Henry’s restaurant, named after a King Charles spaniel in suburban Delray Beach), or just inventing a word (Bolay, with locations in Wellington, Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens.)

Klinefelter wanted to go in a different direction.

He thought of his time spent on Palm Beach during the past two years. It’s a place he visited and then grew to love after giving notice to his employer/partner in Charleston, S.C. After 10 years, Klinefelter left his job at Pearlz Oyster Bar, where he was general manager and operating partner.

Klinfelter said he needed a break. He described Pearlz as “insanely busy,” where every seat is filled within 15 minutes of opening.

In Florida, Klinefelter said he was inspired by the elegance of Palm Beach. And he wanted to acknowledge its rising profile, thanks to President Donald Trump. Trump owns Mar-a-Lago, the ocean-to-lake estate built by Marjorie Merriweather Post and her husband, financier E.F. Hutton, who co-founded a brokerage bearing his name.

So…Hutton.

“The name is synonymous and historic with Palm Beach,” Klinefelter said. Plus, he added, “It’s crisp.”

Look for fresh seafood items with an occasional hint of Klinefelter’s longtime career spent around Low Country cuisine: Sautéed shrimp with creole gravy and hoe cakes, or crayfish beignets, for example.

Shrimp and hoe cakes

Klinefelter said he’s taken care to design the space to be both elegant and inviting. He’s angling to attract not only Northwood neighbors but also Palm Beachers who might be inclined to drive over the new Flagler MemorialBridge, avoid downtown’s traffic and instead zip up Flagler Drive to dine.

Hutton Seafood & Raw Bar, at 407 Northwood Road, is slated to open Aug. 22.

Hutton artwork by Robert Shelton

These stores are set to open this fall at Palm Beach Outlets

Two national retailers will open their doors at the Palm Beach Outlets this fall.

Officials with the outdoor shopping hub announced Thursday that Bath & Body Works and Homegoods, a discount home decor chain, will be opening locations in the coming months.

RELATED: These new stores are coming to The Gardens Mall

The 2,500-square-foot Bath & Body Works store is expected to open in late September and will include a White Barn home fragrance and accessories shop.

The Homegoods store will be located in the space once occupied by Sports Authority.

Sports Authority, which had 35,000-square-feet at the outlets, closed its doors last year after filing for bankruptcy.

The outlet mall has over 100 stores.

This national company is hiring in South Florida

AT&T said Monday it plans to fill nearly 60 retail and call center jobs in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

The open positions are for call center sales representatives and retail sales consultants.

Retail sales jobs are at stores across South Florida, including Boca Raton, Boynton Beach and Delray Beach.

The call center jobs are based at facilities in Sunrise and Miami.

To apply for one of the jobs, go to att.jobs.

Gander Mountain to lay off all employees at Palm Beach Gardens store

Gander Mountain, an outdoor clothing and gear retailer, announced Thursday it plans to lay off all 59 employees at its Palm Beach Gardens store as part of its bankruptcy and sale to Camping World. 

A going out of business sale continues at the Gander Mountain store off of Northlake Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on June 2, 2017. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

In a June 27 letter filed with the state and required under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, the company said the Palm Beach Gardens location is one of two Florida stores that will be closed as part of the sale. All 60 employees at Gander Mountain’s store in Lake Mary will also be laid off, the letter said.

RELATED: CEO targets Gardens on Twitter over future of Gander Mountain store

Employees at both locations will be laid off on Aug. 30, “or shortly thereafter, upon closing of these two stores,” the company said in its letter.

Gander Mountain filed for bankruptcy in March, and was bought by Camping World and a group of liquidators at a bankruptcy auction in late April.

In June, Camping World said it planned to reopen 57 of the stores “under the new Gander Outdoors and Overton’s brand” if it can work out acceptable lease terms with the landlords of those properties.

The Palm Beach Gardens location is not on the list of stores slated to reopen.

 

 

Miami Heat star, partner to open eateries at Brightline station

Miami Heat basketball star Udonis Haslem has teamed up with a South Florida business leader to bring an Einstein Bros. Bagels and Starbucks coffee shop to Brightline’s MiamiCentral train station in downtown Miami.

The Miami Heat’s, from left, Willie Reed, Goran Dragic and Udonis Haslem celebrate 110-102 win against the Washington Wizards at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

JFC Miami, a South Florida-based food and beverage operator run by Haslem and Managing Partner Ramona D. Hall, will open the bagel shop and coffee spot, Brightline announced Thursday.

RELATED: All Aboard Florida sued by Sprint for unpaid bill

“We are delighted to have JFC Miami join MiamiCentral with Udonis Haslem and Ramona D. Hall as a part of our team,” said Daniel Quintana, vice president of development for Florida East Coast Industries, Brightline’s parent company. “MiamiCentral is the new epicenter of Miami, home to Brightline and leading companies Ernst & Young and Cisneros, Miami’s first true food hall experience, Central Fare, and at the crossroads of Metromover, Metrorail and the future Tri-Rail expansion into downtown.”

RELATED: Brightline hopes to woo commuters with Park-Line apartments

MiamiCentral is an 11-acre train station and mixed-use development spanning six city blocks. In addition to the Brightline station, the project includes 300,000-square-feet of office space, 180,000-square-feet of retail and dining space, and 800 residential rental units.

 

What new concept will take over Boca Raton deli?

Park Place shopping center in Boca Raton

Goodbye, pastrami. Hello, pasta.

Rappy’s Deli closed in May after just five months at the new Park Place shopping center in Boca Raton. The space subsequently reopened as a lower-priced deli, Park Place Deli.

Now the prime location at 5560 N. Military Trail will be turned into a different concept: An Italian restaurant, according to restaurateur Burt Rapoport.

The Italian theme is one the veteran restaurant operator knows well.

Restaurateur Burt Rapoport

Back in 1989, Rapoport and another venerable restaurateur, Dennis Max, opened Prezzo on Glades Road.

The casual Italian joint that was a smash hit among area diners.

Rapoport said Prezzo, which operated for 10 years, was the first place in South Florida to have a wood-burning pizza oven.

And soon the Park Place space will have a wood-burning pizza oven, too, as well as other casual, “approachable” Italian dishes, Rapoport said.

An Italian restaurant is a concept Rapoport is confident will have greater success than Rappy’s did.

Rapoport said delis with an upscale tilt are springing up around the country, and that’s what his goal was with Rappy’s: Classic deli items with a modern twist.

“But it turns out this is the worse place in the country to do that,” he said.

Diners have a fairly set concept of what they expect in a deli, and creativity isn’t on the menu, Rapoport said.

“I knew the first week when we were serving this good-quality French mustard, and everyone said, ‘Where’s your deli mustard? How can you have a deli without deli mustard?’ ” he said.

“When people hear deli, the old-school deli comes to mind and that’s what everybody wanted, in terms of price and quality.

“I just totally misread the demand for the marketplace,” Rapoport said.

In addition, people tend to think of delis as breakfast and lunch places, he said. So dinner at Rappy’s wasn’t robust.

Now Rapoport is turning to everyone’s favorite food, Italian, which also tends to do well at dinner.

Of course, there are plenty of Italian restaurants in downtown Delray Beach, and several in east Boca Raton, including the newest one, Louie Bossi.

But Rapoport said there are few Italian eateries west of Interstate 95 in Boca Raton, with the exception of some chain eateries.

So he thinks there’s demand for a casual Italian eatery in the area.

Plans are to open the as-yet unnamed Italian restaurant at Park Place in October or November.

 

AT&T upgrades more than 130 cell sites across South Florida

AT&T announced this week that it has upgraded more than 130 cell sites in South Florida, adding extra capacity that the company said would allow it to handle more network traffic in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade counties.

The upgrades will result in faster data speeds and better overall network performance, the company said.

RELATED: Comcast to cap home data usage for Palm Beach County customers

AT&T said areas covered by the network upgrades in Palm Beach County include: Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Highland Beach, Jupiter, Lake Park, Lake Worth, Loxahatchee, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Riviera Beach, Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, and West Palm Beach.

“AT&T works hard to deliver a great network experience for our customers, wherever they are,” AT&T Florida President Joe York said. “That’s why we continue to invest in our South Florida networks. Our investments will help customers get the most out of their mobile devices.”

 

This local airport was named one of the best in the country

Palm Beach International Airport is one of the best in the country, according to Travel + Leisure magazine.

PBIA took the 9th spot on the magazine’s list of the Top 10 best domestic airports, which was released on Tuesday. The list appears in the August 2017 issue of the magazine and on Travel + Leisure’s website.

A Frontier jet taxis toward its gate at the Palm Beach International Airport Friday, November 21, 2014 after arriving for the first time from Trenton, NJ just before noon. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

RELATED: This local resort made Travel + Leisure’s Top 10 list

PBIA bills itself as a “user-friendly, congestion-free, comfortable yet modern airport.” It has nearly 200 daily non-stop arrivals and departures to more than 25 destinations in the US, Canada and the Caribbean on 13 airlines.

Other airports that made Travel + Leisure’s Top 10 list include: Minneapolis – St. Paul International; Austin-Bergstrom International, Texas; and Tampa International, Florida.

Portland International in Oregon claimed the top spot — marking the fifth consecutive year its earned the number 1 ranking.

This local resort made Travel + Leisure’s Top 10 list

The Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa ranks among the Top 10 hotels in Florida, according to Travel + Leisure magazine.

The Manalapan resort took the 10th spot on the list, which appears in the August 2017 issue of the magazine, and on Travel + Leisure’s website.

Eau Spa (Provided)

RELATED: Chinese leader stay at Eau chance for resort, county to stand out

Other Florida hotels to make Travel + Leisure’s list include: Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate; Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles Beach; and Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in Little Torch Key. The top spot went to the Gasparilla Inn & Club in the small beachfront town of Boca Grande.

The list marks the second time this year the Eau Palm Beach has been honored by a major travel publication.

In February, the Eau was one of two Palm Beach County resorts to earn top honors from Forbes Travel Guide. Both the Eau and the Four Seasons Palm Beach received Forbes’ Five-Star Award — the highest designation.

RELATED: Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa receives Forbes five-star rating

The Eau, located on a 7-acre site with ocean views and lush tropical gardens, underwent a major transformation in 2013 — dropping the Ritz-Carlton name and re-branding itself as a beachfront getaway for both out-of-town guests and locals looking for a beachfront retreat.

It’s amenities include an award-winning spa; four restaurants and lounges; three Har-Tru clay tennis courts; two pools; children and teen clubs and more than 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.

Chinese President Xi Jinping stayed at the resort when he traveled to Palm Beach County in March to meet with President Donald Trump — a visit that put an international spotlight on the hotel.

President Xi’s visit marked the second time in five years that a president stayed at the property.

Former President Barack Obama spent a night at the resort while on the campaign trail in 2012. The property was still operating under the Ritz-Carlton brand during Obama’s stay.