Siesta Seen

Tenant search underway for Jo-To building; Siesta resident wins prestigious honor given to professional skaters; the new Daiquiri Deck opens on Stickney Point Road; the SKA launches a new survey; volunteers needed to help with trash bag distribution over July Fourth holiday; county’s emergency management chief once again displays his facility for being entertaining and educational; an SKA director takes on a new role; and a correction offered

The former home to the Jo-To Japanese Restaurant is awaiting a new tenant. Rachel Hackney photo

One of the new owners of the building that for years housed the Jo-To Japanese Restaurant in Siesta Village says it probably will take two to three months to decide on the best new tenant.

“We’re still in the looking process, “Jim Syprett told The Sarasota News Leader in a June 13 telephone interview.

Syprett and his business partner in other Village ventures — Jay Lancer — purchased the Jo-To parcel on May 1 for $1,350,000, according to the records of the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office.

Teshima Family Properties had owned the parcel since February 2001, those records note.

The restaurant building is adjacent to what is now The Sandal Factory at 5232 Ocean Blvd., which was home to the 7-Eleven store before Lancer and Syprett bought it in January 2016. They also own the parcels where the Daiquiri Deck, the Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar, the Siesta Key Oyster Bar and Gidget’s Coastal Provisions stand — all on the same side of the street.

Because the Jo-To structure can be home to a new restaurant, under the guidelines of the Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD) zoning, Syprett told the News Leader, “that’s the most beneficial use of the property.”

Still, he said, it could end up housing a new retail shop.

Work was underway in mid-January to complete the transformation of the former 7-Eleven store to The Sandal Factory. Rachel Hackney photo

In response to a request from Village architect Mark Smith — who is working on the project with Syprett and Lancer — Sarasota County Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson pointed out in an April 4 letter that the SKOD parking regulations for restaurants and bars were amended by an ordinance the County Commission approved on March 18, 2009. That regulation says that “buildings and uses lawfully existing as of July 1, 1987, may be modernized, altered or repaired without providing additional off-street parking or off-street loading facilities, providing there is no increase in floor area or change in use of existing floor area that would increase parking demands (i.e., more seating, change storage area to office or retail area, etc.) (Bolded for emphasis.)”

“I think it’s a great little spot there,” Smith said of the property when he spoke to the News Leader in a separate interview.

The first order of business, Syprett noted, was to put a new roof on the building. County staff issued a permit for that work on May 12, with A-1 American Roofing and Sheet Metal of Venice set to undertake the estimated $37,000 project, according to a county document.

Furthermore, Syprett told the News Leader, “we had to get [the building] cleaned up enough to be able to determine the situation [from a structural standpoint].”

Syprett and Lancer ran into a problem in late May when that initiative was underway: They were cited for demolition without a permit.

Syprett explained that county staff will not issue a demolition permit until the applicant has produced details regarding the proposed demolition. Moreover, he said, staff will not issue a permit for any new work “until you have plans for reconstruction.”

“We didn’t consider what we were doing as demolition,” he added, as they simply were trying to determine, for example whether three or four walls were made of concrete block (three, as it turned out).

The Code Enforcement Notice of Violation, dated May 23, refers to “unpermitted demolition of walls, plumbing, electrical [heating and air conditioning lines], and drywall.”

A crew had been tearing out wall coverings, Syprett told the News Leader, and pulling out the drop ceiling when a county employee came to inspect the roof work. That led to the issuance of the Notice of Violation, he said.

“Thank goodness we had gotten to the point where we could see what we wanted to see,” he noted, before the work had to cease.

It is always interesting, Syprett said, “when you work on a project in the Village.”

Congratulations to Judy Thomas!

Judy and Dave Thomas pose at the awards ceremony in Nashville. Contributed photo

A former professional ice skater who serves as the talent director and production coordinator for Disney on Ice, Siesta resident Judy Thomas won the prestigious Sonja Henie Award over Memorial Day weekend.

The annual honor is presented “to a female, professional skater or coach who has brought recognition to the sport in a positive and favorable manner,” according to the Professional Skaters Association.

Thomas had a career lasting a total of 19 years, performing with the Ice Follies, Holiday on Ice and Disney on Ice before she took on a professional position, she told the News Leader in a June 13 telephone interview.

The Professional Skaters Association lists past winners of the award. Image from the Professional Skaters Association website

A northern Ontario native, she said she probably first put on a pair of skates when she was 2. “My father was an NHL hockey player,” she explained. With no sons in the family, she continued, she and her two sisters “went into figure skating.”

She completed in skating competitions all through school, Thomas added, before making her sport her profession. “It is something that I truly loved doing that turned into a career.”

The 2017 Sonja Henie Award is inscribed with Judy Thomas’ name. Contributed photo

Thomas said she was surprised to be nominated for the Henie Award, “especially given the past recipients. … It was a great honor.”

She added, “I’m blessed to do what I do”: “offering talented skaters amazing opportunities.” She enjoys the travel and “the amazing people I get to work with … [being able] to do something I’m passionate about,” she told the News Leader. “Every day’s an adventure.”

Henie was a Norwegian figure skater who earned Olympic Gold Medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936; she was a 10-time World champion; and she was a six-time European champion, according to Wikipedia. Turning to a film career, Wikipedia notes, Henie became one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood.

“She was a star,” Thomas emphasized of Henie.

Thomas received the award during a ceremony in Nashville, Tenn., on May 26, she said. She was accompanied to the presentation by her husband, Dave, a former professional skater himself.

Speaking of the Daiquiri Deck …

Venice-based J.E. Charlotte Construction Corp., recently completed construction on the new three-story building for the Daiquiri Deck on Stickney Point Road, which opened last week.

During a June 12 Sarasota County Board of Zoning Appeals hearing, Malcolm Lazin, a Gulf & Bay Club property owner, talked of trying to find a parking place on Old Stickney Point Road on the night of June 1. “Thursday night, out of season, couldn’t even get close,” he said, referring to the popularity of the new restaurant. “I just circled and circled and circled.” He ended up parking about four blocks away, he added, after another driver pulled out of a space.

“The new structure features a 1,000-square-foot full bar with televisions on the ground floor, which will have [a] casual and coastal vibe and will feature the full Daiquiri Deck raw bar … menu,” a press release says. Refrigeration and storage are on the second floor, and the 3,500-square-foot Daiquiri Deck restaurant, “with its signature daiquiri machines, occupies the third level,” the release adds.

On Dec. 22,2016, passersby on Stickney Point Road were able to see vertical construction underway on the site of the new Daiquiri Deck. File photo

The restaurant is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., the release points out.

“The Daiquiri Deck Ownership Group is excited for the opportunity to serve the south end of Siesta Key with our famous daiquiris and rawsome food,” said Troy Syprett, who owns the business with partners Russell Matthes and Matt Grover, the release continues.

The Daiquiri Deck sits on the site of a former gas station on the west side of CB’s Island Outfitters, which retains ownership of the entire parcel, the release explains. The original and sister store, CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, is located two doors down at 1249 Stickney Point Road.

The new restaurant’s outdoor deck overlooks Stickney Point Road and the Intracoastal Waterway, the release points out. It also features partial views of Siesta Key Beach and the Gulf of Mexico.

The overall plan doubled the number of current parking spaces, allocating room for 40 cars and six other motorized vehicles, with some parking spaces underneath the building, the release says.

Three bike racks and valet parking are also available Monday through Friday from 5 to 11 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 11 p.m., the release notes.

To-date, the Daiquiri Deck has four locations, the release continues. Its original Siesta Key location opened in 1993. The restaurant expanded to St. Armands Circle in 2011 and Venice in 2013.

A new SKA survey

In the wake of the great response it received to its survey about the Siesta Key Breeze open-air trolley, the SKA is inviting members to complete a new survey on a wide variety of other topics; it launched this survey at midnight on June 1.

“We want to know your opinions,” SKA President Harold Ashby said during the nonprofit’s June 1 meeting.

About 200 of the SKA’s members have not provided the directors with current email addresses, Ashby pointed out. Anyone who did not receive a copy of the survey may send an email to, the SKA’s website says, and a copy of it will be provided.

Among the topics are the proposed dredging of Big Pass to renourish South Lido Key; the proposed construction of the mixed-use Siesta Promenade project at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road; the proposed Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan amendment that could lead to a new hotel on the Key; the plans for a parking lot and trolley stop on South Midnight Pass Road on land the county owns; bicycle safety; and the May 2016 vote of the County Commission to vacate a 357-foot-long segment of North Beach Road.

Volunteers needed

Veronica Murphy addresses the SKA audience on Aug. 4, 2016. File photo

The Siesta Key Association and the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce are seeking volunteers to assist their member, Veronica Murphy, in handing out trash bags to beach-goers over the July Fourth holiday.

Help is needed on July 1, 2 and 4, a Chamber news release says, adding, “One hour of your time will make a difference.”

Anyone wishing to assist with the initiative may email Murphy at

Advice and entertainment

SKA members who have seen Sarasota County Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane make presentations on preparations for hurricane season know McCrane is a man with a good sense of humor. McCrane sprinkles in plenty of anecdotes to drive home his points. That was the case again recently, when he addressed SKA members on June 1, the start of the current hurricane season.

“You did pick a pretty good area to live,” McCrane told the approximately 60 people in the audience. “From what I understand [Siesta Key is] protected by Indian spirits. I choose to believe that.”

(Local lore says the Seminoles hundreds of years ago used the area as a sacred burial ground.)

McCrane also pointed out, “We don’t have volcanoes; we don’t have blizzards. We don’t have big earthquakes or tsunami threats. But we do live in the tropics,” which means the potential exists for hurricanes each summer and fall.

And while tornadoes often form in conjunction with hurricanes, he said, “we don’t get the tornadoes like the one that took Dorothy’s house to the Wizard of Oz.”

Although mobile home residents were not among the audience members, he explained that anyone living in such a dwelling always is advised to evacuate if a hurricane is approaching. However, if someone has not evacuated and a storm is about to strike, McCrane said, the advice emergency management personnel traditionally give mobile home dwellers is to go outside and lie in a ditch. “In Florida, I don’t get in ditches,” he added. “Alligators are usually in ditches.”

Ed McCrane talks to SKA members on June 1. Rachel Hackney photo

Because all of Siesta Key is in Evacuation Zone A, McCrane pointed out, every resident should evacuate if a hurricane is predicted to affect the area. Asked if hotels are safe, he replied that if they were built since 2000, structurally, they are safe.

Nonetheless, he cautioned, anyone planning to stay in a hotel or motel should call the facility and ask whether it has hurricane-resistant windows and whether staff will be on hand during the storm to provide services.

When laughter ensued at the latter part of that answer, McCrane provided his firsthand example about why the question is necessary.

In 2004, he said, when Hurricane Frances was assaulting Florida, he was on his way to the East Coast to assist with emergency management operations. “It was raining very hard,” he continued, and he needed to stop somewhere to use the restroom. He ended up stopping at a hotel he had spotted with a parking lot filled to capacity. When he entered the building, McCrane said, “four people in the lobby stopped me.” They were locked out of their rooms and wanted help, he continued, but he told him he had no way to assist them.

When McCrane asked about the hotel staff, the people told him all the staff had left, pointing to a sign on the front desk that said the hotel management wanted to ensure all of its employees would be safe, so it had sent them home. The sign directed people needing help to call a telephone number, McCrane noted. When he asked if any of the four people who had stopped him had tried the number, he said, all of them replied that they had. “[The phone] rang right next to the sign.”

(See the related story in this issue.)

New responsibility for Volpe

Joe Volpe dons his new cap on June 1. Rachel Hackney photo

SKA President Harold Ashby talked during the June 1 meeting about how “we, as board members, wear a lot of hats,” working as volunteers in service of residents and business owners on Siesta Key.

When the SKA board held its last meeting, he continued, he mentioned that the nonprofit needed someone to oversee issues relating to waterways. Then, whenever pertinent questions arose, that person could undertake the necessary research or action.

Director Joe Volpe responded, “‘I’ll do it,’” Ashby said. “Joe is our new waterways captain.”

As a punctuation mark to those comments — so to speak — the board had a nautical cap ready for Volpe to don, complete with “scrambled eggs.” A round of applause ensued.


This reporter confesses to occasionally misunderstanding comments at meetings she attends. That was the case with one part of the June 1 SKA meeting. The June 9 Siesta Seen said the SKA might end up needing $500,000 to fight the proposed dredging of Big Pass. Actually, Vice President Catherine Luckner was joking that if someone contributed a huge amount of money to the nonprofit’s separate, 501(c)(3) Siesta Key Environmental Defense Fund — say, $500,000 — that person would deserve a lot of recognition.