Health Inspections Close Island Fine Dining Restaurants

The St. John restaurant scene was in a whirl last week as a handful of the top St. John fine dining restaurants were shut down during a peak tourist season week after surprise inspections by the V.I. Department of Health beginning on Sunday, March 19, according to one industry professional.

Asolare, Chateau Bordeaux, Cafe Roma and Island Blues were among the restaurants closed for some period of time during the week. Island Blues opened Wednesday night for the heavily-promoted Steve Simon St. John Blues Festival event — only to close again Thursday.

Most of the establishments had reopened by the weekend.

There was no official notice of the inspections and closures. Restaurant staff members scrambled to get health cards updated — with the Health Department’s ID machine reportedly out of order.

Is Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure Over?
Meanwhile, the apparent official break-up of the fledgling partnership of chef Ted Robinson and long-time Love City mouthpiece Bill Jerome, Esq. — aka the Toots Shore of St. John — has forever changed the top of the island’s food chain. The highly-regarded Tage has remained shuttered in recent weeks in a hiatus which even minority owner Ted was at a loss to explain.

“It was turning into a job,” said Ted of his excellent two-year adventure with the bi-coastal Bill in their very successful restaurant — which the eccentric chef named after his dog, Meritage.

“I didn’t want a job,” Ted said in mid-March, when interviewed while he was doing his laundry. “I’m enjoying a vacation.” Ted’s vacation apparently has either ended or been extended.

“I saw Ted clearing out his stuff from the restaurant today,” one island restaurant manager said Friday. “One thing is for sure, Tage will never be Tage again.”

Impact on Island Restaurant Industry
The restaurant closures had a major impact on the island’s economy — and the personal economy of scores of restaurant industry workers during the annual late-season tourism surge.

“People come down here just to eat at places like Asolare,” one island restaurant manger said of the impact of the bureaucratic enforcement. “Some people come down here year after year to eat at restaurants like Asolare, Zozo’s, The Stone Terrace and La Tapa.

“It’s a lot of money out of a lot of peoples’ pockets,” the service industry professional added.

Chloe and Bernard’s Pleases
Chloe and Bernard’s at the Westin Resort was a major beneficiary as Consolidated Resources sent reservations — and some staff — from the temporarily closed Asolare and Chateaux Bordeaux to their resort establishment.

The restaurant took the opportunity to showcase its menu under new executive chef Tim Morrel — who made a name for himself during a previous stint at Chloe and Bernard’s last year before going to work with Ted at Tage.