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What will the new Longboat Key look like?

BLAKE FLEETWOOD
Guest Columnist
blake@lbknews.com

There is no going back to the way we were 14 weeks ago. This is a fantasy.

Not possible any more — until the development of a vaccine: a year? two years?

Things will look different. There will be social distancing.  This week restaurants with outdoor seating will open, but indoors seating will be limited to 25% of capacity according to LBK’s new Mayor, Ken Schneier. The public tennis courts are slated to open for singles play, with players only touching their own balls. Opening the pickleball courts is more complicated. Pickleball is really a doubles game with a lot of people milling around.

The pandemic has turned the world upside down and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will never be able to put it back together, exactly the way it was.

What was once strange will be the new normal, like wearing masks on planes and when shopping, and no more leaving salt shakers on tables in restaurants.

LBK is a special place. Only 23% of us have a regular job. We are a retirement community and a tourist destination.

The tourism business will be hard hit. It relies on people flying on planes, and that’s not going to happen much for the rest of the year. Airlines are predicting only partial service for nine months. This is what happened after 9/11. People were understandably afraid to fly.

This time the reluctance to travel might last much longer.

Tourism also relies on people having money to spend on discretionary items. After being out of work for months and losing fortunes in the stock market, many people will not have much left for vacations. There will be a steep fall in spending.

Economists quoted in the Wall Street Journal said that the downturn will be more than 30% for the quarter, a scale not seen since the Great Depression.

New restaurants, or hotels, planned for the island are going to be put on hold.  Developers won’t be able to raise capital from banks when the tourists aren’t coming. Last week the Zota and the Longboat Key Resort were renting out rooms at a fifty percent discount, but the parking lots were empty.

As for real estate, Sy Sherr, a long time LBK investor, told me, “Nothing is selling. Nobody is showing. Owners don’t know what prices to put up. Owners, ironically, are raising prices because, if it’s not selling at a low price, why not have it “not sell” at a higher price.”

LBK may fare better than most places. “Right now the condos which used to be empty with snowbirds going home, are surprisingly full. People don’t want to go back to crowded cities.”

Sherr cautions, the economy is not coming back for 5 years.

“Things are not all that great, said Judy Kepecz-Hays, who lists 21 pending contracts on LBK from April 17 to  May 1. Many contracts will not close, but many will. Prices are down.

We’re all Online Now

Witness the astounding speed at which LBK residents are embracing technology.  They are visiting with their children and grandchildren via Facetime, Skype, and Zoom.

Zoom gatherings are everywhere.

Medicine is being transformed. Will it ever be the same again?  Today video medical appointments are commonplace and the insurance companies and Medicare are paying, a real boon to residents of LBK who often have to battle horrendous traffic to see their doctors off island.

They are ordering their groceries online for pickup or delivery.

Suddenly changes, that in pre-Covid19 times, would have taken years to implement with opposition, hesitation and debate, are being adopted easily. Millions of white collar workers have found that they are able to work from home, a trend that was slowly growing has now exploded exponentially.

This pandemic is not a Black Swan event. There will be a New Normal, maybe even a better, fairer, more compassionate normal.

One lesson that we should have learned is that we are all connected in a globalized way. What happens in Wuhan and in northern Italy will eventually affect us all.

In recent years there has been a growing nationalism — a backlash to globalization — spreading throughout Europe and the world.

But this “every nation and every man for themselves” attitude is dangerous, as the pandemic proved. We are only as strong as our weakest link when dealing with borderless issues like climate change, resource overuse and epidemics.

Disasters rip away the fallacy of utter self-reliance and expose our interdependence with each other.

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4 Responses for “What will the new Longboat Key look like?”

  1. ghostrider says:

    More gloom and doom.
    That’s your interpretation.
    Now that you can’t report 100’s dying on LBK you take the position our local economy will be in shambles for years.
    At a minimum four years. That’s not four months.
    We heard all this after EBOLA, SARS, etc. but people are resilient and are already moving back to normal.
    Perhaps in your fictional neighborhood. When was wearing masks considered NORMAL?
    And real estate is still selling, maybe not at a pre-Covid clip but it’s still selling.
    Of course it is. It’s the sole past-time on Longboat. Regardless of age or wealth. Move ’em in. Move ’em out. Ad nauseum.
    Home Depot is doing a brisk business.
    Home Depot quarterlies say otherwise.
    The world is not ending.
    Agreed, but, some of us are going away.
    This prediction is as empty and unfounded as the one you made in your first article.
    It’s an opinion piece just as your response is.
    None of your isolation demands were implemented, none of your dire predictions came true and LBK is surviving.
    Money helps when you want to hide. DO YOU THINK BEING SENTENCED TO HOUSE ARREST IS NORMAL?
    Go back to NY and peddle this rhetoric.
    It’s hard to return to NY when many there are leaving to other destinations.
    Maybe they’re interested. Whatever kind of crazy you’re selling we aren’t buying.
    Who’s “we” ?
    We’re full up and fed up with that stuff around here.
    Now tell us why you are upset? Are you getting tired washing your hands? Are you weary wearing your Long Ranger mask?
    Have you noticed it’s starting to kill the young?
    Let us revisit your “back to normal” in two months.

  2. Mainland Resident says:

    More gloom and doom. Now that you can’t report 100’s dying on LBK you take the position our local economy will be in shambles for years. We heard all this after EBOLA, SARS, etc. but people are resilient and are already moving back to normal. And real estate is still selling, maybe not at a pre-Covid clip but it’s still selling. Home Depot is doing a brisk business. The world is not ending. This prediction is as empty and unfounded as the one you made in your first article. None of your isolation demands were implemented, none of your dire predictions came true and LBK is surviving.
    Go back to NY and peddle this rhetoric. Maybe they’re interested. Whatever kind of crazy you’re selling we aren’t buying. We’re full up and fed up with that stuff around here.

  3. Sally says:

    We owned property from 1985 til 2004….last being Grand Bay. I loved living there but moved before the bridge was changed. Now in Lakewood Ranch. I do miss the Key and all the restaurants on the Circle. I agree, things have changed dramatically….and will never be the same in my lifetime which is hard to fathom. We can not continue with this growing nationalism. We are all part of this planet and must work together to survive, if that is even possible.

  4. Andrzej says:

    Sounds a little like a “Merchant of Death”.
    On the light side; I am glad “with players only touching their own balls. “.. Yes, please leave my balls alone.
    Thank you.

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