Street Talk - October 2001

By staff October 1, 2001

We're different here Sarasota Police Chief Skip Jolly was boasting. "We make 42 times the national average arrests for prostitution," the chief announced to the city commission one day.

"Now that doesn't mean we have more prostitutes than other cities," the chief quickly added. "We're just vigorously enforcing our quality-of-life ordinances. In fact, our enforcement program is the most progressive and comprehensive program to treat prostitution in the nation," he bragged on.

Right. And every year or so our "great morning daily" newspaper pronounces prostitution gone from the North Trail-to gales of laughter from folks living along that stretch of road.

Old-timers still tell about the two houses of ill repute that operated on Main Street all through the '20s and '30s and weren't closed until the World War II trainees left in the mid-'40s. But believe me, the tradition lives on along the North Trail-and if you doubt that, just ask Barnacle Bill about the "alternative uses" of his parking lot he's had to battle against.

But go there-the North Trail, I mean. It's plenty safe enough-certainly the entire state's premier arts neighborhood-and sprinkled with some excellent restaurants and wonderful surrounding neighborhoods. It may be different, but the North Trail-hookers and all-is my favorite road in Sarasota.

Remember Tail O'The Pup and adjoining Elbow Room-an old place on St. Armands Circle with all its regulars' caricatures on the walls? It wasn't that many years ago that arguably the best bar and grill ever to grace St. Armands was shuttered shortly after serious drinking went out of style.

That was about the time Tim Kantor-one of the bar's several wordsmith regulars and son of author MacKinlay-died.

After you'd had quite a few pops at the bar, had missed lunch completely and were expected back to work sometime this afternoon, the moment was right for a couple of the bar's famous Texas Tommies. You might regret them later, but at that moment they sounded wonderful.

Texas Tommies weren't terribly unique. A split hot dog stuffed with cheese and wrapped with bacon skewered at each end with a toothpick, grilled and served on a toasted bun. Chopped onions optional.

Well, the barrier island Texas Tommy lives again. This time the Circle Deli Diner located in St. Armands Pharmacy has taken up the tradition in a salute to the old Elbow Room (and Tail O'The Pup). After all, it's located just a couple of doors away. No, there's no liquor license, but a couple of Tommies still makes a great lunch even in these times of "moderation."

Pool Politics

County Commission Chair David Mills wants to bulldoze the old swimming pool at the Lido Beach pavilion and replace it with a tennis court that could be used by guests at the nearby Radisson Inn.


Well, according to Mills, it costs the county about $125,000 a year to operate the pool, but it only generates about $10,000 in income. Besides, the pool is old and needs some repairs.

Hey, we're all good Republicans here-even those who mostly vote Democratic-but isn't this taking bottom-line Republicanism a bit far? Now our public swimming pools have to show a profit, too?

On the other hand, when was the last time you went to Lido Beach to swim in the pool? I can't remember, either.

Hot Seat

Bob Buford brought the Ritz-Carlton to Sarasota, surviving a battle both messy and long. As the hotel prepares to open-and probably change downtown forever-we cornered him for a few questions.

Q. Knowing what you do now, would you choose Sarasota again?

A. Yes. Sarasota has a wonderful future and I have great respect for the community. While I was at the Ritz-Carlton in Aspen last week a young man who works there said to me, "I'm really looking forward to coming to Sarasota because I love those white sand beaches. I do have to add, too, that if it wasn't for the encouragement of Arland Christ-Janer and General Heiser, we probably wouldn't be in Sarasota.

Q. Any advice for Sarasota's mayor?

A. Which one? Do you have one at the moment? Seriously, I'd tell the mayor that the city employees we've dealt with were both qualified and very responsible when it comes to protecting the city. They certainly don't offer much slack-but then we didn't ask for any, either.

Q. You're an oilman-should they ever be drilling off Sarasota?

A. Truth is, my experience has all been on land-never had any experience offshore, so I just don't know. I did just merge my public company with The Williams Group, though; and they're building a natural gas pipeline to supply fuel to Florida, so I hope I'll learn more.

Q. Where do you vacation?

A. Since I've got this project in Florida [the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota], my trips there aren't vacations anymore, but hopefully someday they will be again.

Q. Any more business projects coming in Sarasota?

A. Well, we've got the beach project on Lido that should come to market late this year. And that's about it for now.

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