By Tom Oat
Two of the most renowned Cruz Bay restaurants will be shuttering their kitchens as one of the island’s leading business couples, Lonnie and Albert Willis, shake up their real estate, restaurant and car rental conglomerate.
The Willises, who have made no public announcement of the impending business moves, could not be reached for comment on future business plans during the Easter holiday weekend.
The jobs of more than 30 people will be affected by the decision to close the two establishments, according to one competing restaurant owner.
Employees were notified of the impending closure several weeks ago, according to several key employees — some long-term will be offered severance packages, according to the neighboring restaurateur.
“A lot of people have lost their jobs,” said the Cruz Bay restaurant and bar owner. “Apparently it was cheaper to close them than to operate them.”
The long-popular The Fish Trap restaurant next the Catholic church in downtown Cruz Bay was a family favorite for its early dinner special prices.
The Fishtrap, anchored a commercial complex owned by the Willises, houses numerous retail and service business including a recently-opened convenience store.
The nearby Stone Terrace fine dining restaurant overlooking Cruz Bay beach, was an immediate island favorite when opened by their son Aaron Willis.
The Willises built the foundation of their business empire when they took over one of the island’s first car rental businesses from the late Forrest Fisher in the 1970s. Their St. John Car Rental business today is located in a recently constructed office building between The Fishtrap complex and The Stone Terrace.
The couple also owns the Boulon Center commercial complex which has business tenants including V.I. government offices and a number of professional offices and the Dolphin Gourmet Market. They bought the Boulon Center after selling the St. John Inn.