Commercial free-for-all on St Johns County beaches

One Historic City News reader has contacted our office with his concerns that vendors operating on St Johns County beaches, specifically on Anastasia Island and St Augustine Beach, are increasing in numbers, fast taking away from the beauty and adding to the crowding of the barrier island, with no apparent regulation by county management.

Beach resident Tom Reynolds has contacted County Administrator Michael Wanchick and County Attorney Patrick McCormack with his concerns, forwarding copies of his correspondence to us for publication.  We asked that any response be forwarded to us for inclusion in this article, which Reynolds agreed to do.  None has been forthcoming.

At issue are about 50 empty chairs, footstools and beach umbrellas occupying the public beach in front of Embassy Suites on St Augustine Beach, Reynolds said.  A couple of days after the new hotel opened, the beach furniture started showing up on the sand close to the water.

“About a week or so ago, I spoke with a middle-aged man who informed me that the chairs, umbrellas, and footstools are for rent, and he told me how to rent them,” Reynolds said.  “Another young man who told me that he worked there, but was not wearing an Embassy Suites shirt, said people cannot smoke cigars and cannot smoke cigarettes in front of the hotel, on the county walkway, or on the sand.  It appeared to me that he was the chair rental guy or traveling with him.”

Reynolds told us that he is bothered by the chairs that keep appearing in front of 880 A1A Beach Boulevard, St. Augustine Ocean & Racquet Club Condominium, as well.  He reports that they are also appearing in front of Holiday Isle and the new Guy Harvey hotel.  We checked the business tax records of Dennis W Hollingsworth, St. Johns County Tax Collector.  Although there were 12-pages of tax receipts for businesses at 880 A1A Beach Boulevard, for example, they appear to be for unit owners who rent out their condominium, not beach vendors.

“Why are they putting chairs, umbrellas, and footstools on county property in front of the complex where I live?” Reynolds asked.  “It is my understanding that the company that rents these chairs works from the Guy Harvey location. He should keep them over there!”

Reynolds says that he thinks it is unfair for a vendor to take up “a big long section of prime beach seating spots” while no one is sitting in them.  In his view, vendors are cheating other beachgoers who show up and want to use that spot.

“What is next?” Reynolds asked, rhetorically.   

People walking the beaches selling products like sunglasses? suntan lotion? ice cream? spray-on suntan lotions?