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Monday, May 23, 2016

The "The New and Improved Sunset Bar and Grill" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Friday ...  and Carol and I are making a visit to the Sunset Bar and Grill on the island of Sint Maarten.  Picked this day since there are no cruise ships due in port today.  Have been visiting the Sunset for years to take photos of the large jets as they land over Maho Beach which is located at the head of the runway of Princess Juliana International Airport.  Must admit we also enjoy the visit to have lunch while we await the many large aircraft whose arrival times are listed on a surfboard near the beachbar of the Sunset.  
The original Sunset Bar and Grill.
It was back in 1996 that Neil Rooney and his friend Brad constructed the bar a year after Hurricane Luis reeked havoc on the island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin.  The bar was situated behind the Caravanseria Hotel which later became known as the Alegria Hotel.  When the bar first opened it consisted of a multi-level seating restaurant with a stage for evening performances and a round bar.  
Shot I took from the plane as we landed about 15 years ago.
It was originally known as the Sunset Beach Bar and only within the last few years changed its name to Sunset Bar and Grill when new owners arrived.  When the place first opened the sound system played island music and beer and drinks were served at the small bar.  Later picnic tables were added on multi-layered tiers to increase seating as well as business.  
The Sunset Beach Bar photo I took about
15 years ago.  The surfboard is used to tell
the times of plane arrivals.
Then a barbecue area was added and business flourished.  In 1997 a patron of the bar, watching a group of young girls tanning topless on the nearby beach, wrote "Topless Women Drink For Free" on the "Drink of 'D' Day signboard, and .... well the rest is history.  Carol and I had heard that the bar had expanded and were interested to see what had happened to the bar that we made a pilgrimage to every year to take photos of the planes.  We were amazed at the size of the new Sunset Bar and Grill.  The old kitchen area had been moved about 60 to 70 feet back from the restaurant and a pool area with sit-down tables in the pool has been added as well as an additional 50 feet or so of tables along the ocean side of the bar.  A new, very large bar sits in the middle of all of this, but the old bar still remains intact.  The entrance to the place is all new with parking at the nearby hotel.  
A hat and decal from the original Sunset Beach Bar.
Present your food and drink receipt to the hotel parking attendant an parking is free.  New restrooms and an updated stage have been added as well as a very large store that sells t-shirts, hats, and a variety of other memorabilia for the Sunset Bar and Grill.  A separate clothing store sits next to the hat and t-shirt store.  Menu items seem to still remain the same and naturally the "Topless Woman Drink Free" sign still hangs in the original bar.  And .... the surfboard still lists arrival times of all planes while people still scramble to find a good spot to take photos as the big jets drop from the sky and seem to scrap the chain-link fence at the end of the runway.  Oh yeah, there are still the daredevils (idiots) who think they can hold onto the fence when the jet blast of planes taking off grows so strong that it throws them across the road to be pelted with the sand blast on Maho Beach.  Check out the photos I took so you can see what the new Sunset Bar and Grill looks like.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

New entrance to the Sunset Bar and Grill.
Seating area at the new SSBG.
Looking towards what used to be the food prep area.  The restaurant looks empty due to the fact that there were no cruise ships in port the day we visited.
Still display the surfboard with arrival times.
Large jet ready to take off.  One fellow is "fence surfing" or trying to told on to the fence and brave the jet blast.
Many were blown down the beach by the jet blast.
Air France arrives.
The new pool area where the old food prep area used to be.
The food prep area has been moved behind the pool area.
The new bar that was constructed.  The old bar still remains.

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