Around Town: Authentic English pub in Delray ready to change hands

The Blue Anchor restaurant and pub, a block west of the Intracoastal Waterway on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, will remain open while it’s up for sale. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

By Thom Smith

    Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Blue Anchor Pub for sale! Owner going fishing!
    Lee Harrison and Roy Foster opened The Blue Anchor in 1996. As veterans of Fleet Street, the London address of the notorious tabloid press, the pair said the pub provided their version of a home away from home. They had no idea they were in the vanguard of Delray Beach’s “renaissance.”
    Foster left the picture years ago, and now Harrison is selling.
    “After 20 years I’m going fishing,” Harrison said. “A lot of people are saying it’s about time.”
    Harrison and Foster had washed down an oceanful of fish and chips with lots of beer and ale while writing for newspapers on Fleet Street. But after taking big-bucks jobs at the National Enquirer in the ’70s, they couldn’t find a pub that reminded them of home.
    The solution seemed simple: “Let’s buy one!”
Their quest took them first to a Boca Raton strip center on North Federal Highway where they took over Lion and Eagle. Tall pints, bangers and mash, football (real football, not the American version) on the tube. It was nice but lacked a certain “fleeting” atmosphere. Plus, it was a long drive from Lantana, where the Enquirer was located, so they turned their attention to Delray Beach and soon found a location right on Atlantic Avenue just a block west of the Intracoastal Waterway.
    For the architectural and permit work, they hired Digby Bridges, who designed Delray’s city hall, police station and tennis center, and coincidentally, had studied architecture in London, raising a few glasses at the same London pub Harrison and Foster had haunted ... the original Blue Anchor.
That century-old pub, they soon learned, had been razed. But (another coincidence) Burt Handelsman, owner of the Delray Beach property, had already bought the Tudor facade and the rich wood interiors. For a decade he had stored the goods in a New York warehouse.
The revived Blue Anchor opened in 1996, and with it a sideshow. As the story goes, Bertha Starkey, an unfaithful wife, had been stabbed to death decades before at the London version of the pub by her jealous seafaring husband, and her ghost still lurks. Also at least two victims of Jack the Ripper supposedly spent their last evenings alive in the original pub, though they may have frequented a different Blue Anchor on Royal Mint Street.
    Harrison is eager to settle into his new home on the Withlacoochee River in the Central Florida town of Lake Panasoffkee, population 3,551. But he remains proud of his contribution to Delray's revival.
    “We were the first of the new breed,” he said, “six weeks ahead of 32 East. They came in here to do their planning.
    “It’s really been a fun 20 years. I met a multitude of characters, most of whom are now regulars. This is one of the few towns in Florida that has a heart to it.”
When Marjorie Merriweather Post envisioned Mar-a-Lago as a “winter White House,” she didn't have Donald Trump in mind. Trump, after all, wasn’t even 30 and was far less experienced in the ways of the world. But here we are, four decades later, and her dream is taking shape, albeit against expectations.
     Air Force One will land at PBIA and with limited delays of public traffic, and the presidential motorcade will roll easily along Southern Boulevard to the Island. Palm Beachers are a picky lot, but members of the Mar-a-Lago Club already are adjusting to the new security measures. Guests at charity events will learn to adjust as well.  
    When Trump is present, club members and/or gala guests will not drive into the grounds directly through the main gate on South Ocean. With Secret Service overseeing arrangements, Mar-a-Lago Club managers worked out a plan with their counterparts across the street at the Bath & Tennis Club: Security screenings will be conducted in its parking lot and visitors to Mar-a-Lago will then enter Mar-a-Lago directly across the street through the Southern Boulevard gate.
    Once inside, guests are free to move around, except near the Trumps’ personal quarters.
    “If they would leave the main house, say, to go to the tennis court, when they came back they would go through the scanner again,” Mar-a-Lago club manager Bernd Lembcke said. “Any time they leave the protective area. It has all been very professional and that’s what our members liked.
    “The Secret Service was glad to answer any questions our members had. They were very, very friendly.”
    Unlike his frequent visits to Mar-a-Lago as a civilian, Trump’s trips as president will cost taxpayers. The Sheriff's Office pegged its overtime for the five-day Thanksgiving weekend at $248,000. Add in Palm Beach police, airport and fire security and local costs will be in the millions.
    Once the inauguration takes place, security for all public and personal presidential activities is controlled exclusively by the Secret Service. Trump’s ever-present personal bodyguards will no longer be on the case, a Secret Service spokesperson in Washington said emphatically, adding, “Presidents can select their staff at will, but protection of the president ... Secret Service.”
    The president may hire whomever he chooses as “staff,” the spokesperson said, but, by law, they may not serve in a protective capacity.
    Lembcke concurred: “It’s all Secret Service from now on. Our security that he usually has, they are now taking care of the members, the house and everything else. He is completely in the hands of the Secret Service.”
    Nevertheless, such Trump stalwarts as Keith Schiller and Matt Calamari will be close at hand as “staff.”
    Schiller is a former New York cop. He recently decked a protester in front of Trump Tower and during a primary rally forcibly ejected newsman Jorge Ramos  when he tried to question Trump. Calamari entered the picture 35 years ago when Trump saw him tackle several hecklers at a U.S. Open tennis match.
    Writer Ronald Kessler, who has made a specialty of covering the Secret Service, reported recently that Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy “specifically approved including (Schiller) in the security detail, which is unprecedented.”
    Federal law, however, is specific about who can do what, even to restricting who can carry firearms in the White House. Schiller is expected to take up permanent residence with his boss, as the man who decides who gets to the president.   
    If President Trump decides to hold Cabinet meetings at Mar-a-Lago, some members, as well as some Republican town-criers, are only a few minutes away.
Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross, 79, lives barely a mile north. He does know commerce: At one point he reportedly controlled one-fifth of the nation’s steel production and also has coal connections. His wife, Hilary Geary Ross, 66, is well known in New York and Palm Beach social circles and could become the social arbiter in D.C.
    Education Secretary-to-be Betsy DeVos lives in Holland, Mich. But she and husband Richard, who used some of his Amway money to buy the Orlando Magic basketball team, owned a Manalapan estate that they sold in 2014 to Lois Pope for $16.2 million.
    Robert Mnuchin, father of Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin, owns a condo at Sloan’s Curve.
    The Small Business Administration pick, Linda McMahon, is listed as the owner of the penthouse floor and the floor just below it at the Excelsior condo on Boca Raton’s beach. It’s worth $5.4 million and covers more than 8,000 square feet. The McMahons’ previous home nearby was once seriously damaged by Vince McMahon’s WWF wrestlers, who took partying to a new level.
    Fox commentator Lou Dobbs and wife Debi Segura, a former CNN sports anchor, own a $1.7 million home in Ibis in Palm Beach Gardens about two fairways away from the home of Ben Carson, who will head Housing and Urban Development. According to the Zillow website that includes lots of photos, Carson is asking $1.2 million and it’s move-in ready. No hint of habitation.
    Dobbs’ daughter, coincidentally named Hillary, is a champion show jumper who regularly competes in the winter events in Wellington and coaches the University of South Carolina’s equestrian team, which won a national championship in 2015.
    Though he’s made little news since his firing in August, former campaign manager Paul Manafort lives in BallenIsles in Palm Beach Gardens.
      Ann Coulter (location “confidential”), Rush Limbaugh and Rudy Giuliani (two condos — one in Palm Beach Towers, site of JFK press briefings) have homes in Palm Beach. Another conservative commentator, Laura Ingraham, lives in Connecticut but has been a frequent house guest of Republican wheeler-dealer Gay Gaines. And, of course, Bill O’Reilly is a regular visitor and claims lots of friends in Palm Beach.  
    Can FAU ever get over Howard Schnellenberger? The legendary coach played major roles in the success of the Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami and built the FAU football program from zero in 2000 to Sun Belt Conference co-champ and a bowl win in 2007. But since he retired from FAU in 2011, the football program has been hurting.
    Former Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pellini went 5-15 at FAU before resigning in the face of drug use charges. Charlie Partridge came highly regarded from Arkansas, but after three three-win seasons, FAU brass said enough. President John Kelly (Clemson) and Athletic Director Pat Chun (Ohio State) are accustomed to winners.
    Lane Kiffin fits that mold ... sort of. As offensive coordinator at No. 1 Alabama, he’s been called a genius, but he comes with baggage. Kiffin, 41, was only 26 when he became an assistant at Southern Cal. His offenses ranked among the nation’s best and he became known for his recruiting skills.
 When Kiffin was 31, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis made him the youngest head coach in NFL history, then fired him early in his second season. In 2009 he became head coach at Tennessee, where comments about then-Florida coach Urban Meyer and Pahokee caused problems, then he returned to Southern Cal in 2010 for up-and-down years as head coach before being fired in 2013. He’s since been running Alabama’s offense instead of his mouth.
    Now, after starting at the top, Kiffin will begin working his way back up with the kind of program he should have run in the first place. His bosses are confident.
     “Lane will change the face of college football here,” Kelly said. “Our players will respond to him, our recruitment drives will respond to him, and our fans will respond to him.”
    “Nobody wanted to be the head coach of Florida Atlantic more than Lane Kiffin,” Chun said. “He emerged as our top candidate because of his conviction and belief in FAU.”
    One final concern: the money.
    Kiffin made a reported $1.4 million a year at Alabama. FAU’s deal, reportedly for five years, will pay him just under $1 million annually.
    “Now we have to find the money to pay him,” a member of the school’s finance committee said at the news conference announcing the hire.
    Many outside observers see Kelly’s logic. In front of a backdrop with the slogan “Unbridled Ambition,” he began his remarks at the news conference by recounting recent academic and management hires:
    Topping the list is Phillip M. Boiselle, No. 2 at Harvard Medical School, who will take over FAU’s fledgling medical school this month.
     Randy Dean Blakely, former director of Vanderbilt’s Center for Neuroscience Research, leads FAU’s new brain institute.
     Danita Nias, who managed the portfolios of major donors to the universities of Florida and Maryland, took over the FAU Foundation, the school’s fundraising arm, in October.
    On the job since last May, former New York University neuroscientist James E. Galvin is running FAU’s Memory and Wellness Center, an on-campus clinic, dementia daycare center and research hub. He recently developed the Quick Dementia Rating System, a 10-item questionnaire to determine potential dementia that can be administered in three to five minutes. Previous tests required four to five hours to administer and score.
    Those appointments attracted media attention but nothing like the nationwide reaction afforded Kiffin. FAU was the most mentioned university on Twitter in the 24 hours before the announcement as fans wondered why Kiffin picked FAU, noted Kelly, who then answered: “Because they’re on the move.”
    Fans who like offense were rewarded Dec. 20 as Western Kentucky beat Memphis, 51-31, in the third annual Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium. The weather was great — above-average 77 degrees compared to below-normal teens for Memphis and Bowling Green — for fans. Unfortunately, in a stadium that holds 30,000, only an announced 24,726 showed up and many left before the fourth quarter.
Not good for concessions, hotels, restaurants or car rentals. And worse, the count has diminished each year, from 29,419 to 25,908 to 24,726. But to the operator, ESPN Events, attendance is not as crucial as viewers.
    Bowl Executive Director Doug Mosley remains optimistic as the area enjoys an economic impact of more than $10 million, 7,500 room nights and $400,000 in tax revenue. Plus ESPN takes in an estimated $13 million in advertising.
    The game probably didn't outdraw Bob Dylan’s crooning “Once Upon a Time” on NBC’s 90th-birthday salute to Tony Bennett. But as Mosley, realistic about the competition, noted, “We’re doin’ all right.”
    Speaking of musical legends, Rena Blades, president of the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, is brushing up on her lyrics. She’ll interview Bernie Taupin Jan. 10 at a “Spotlight Luncheon” at the Kravis Center's Cohen Pavilion.
Best known as composer of Elton John hits (Tiny Dancer, Levon, Your Song, Rocket Man, among many others), Taupin is also an author, writer, poet, painter, sculptor and performer. His work will be on exhibit at Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary, a new art show running Jan. 12-15 in the tent adjacent to CityPlace.
    Blades hooked up with Taupin through the owner of ArtMiami, and “the timing just worked out,” she said. “We can’t wait to have him in town. He’s been very generous with his time.” For tickets, $150 and up, call 472-3342.  

Tony Arruza: 15 Surfboards by 15 Shapers
Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, Lake Worth – Dec. 1

The exhibit debut of 15x15 drew the Cultural Council’s largest-ever turnout. ABOVE: (l-r) Chris Birch, Juan Rodriguez, Ron Heavyside, Ricky Carroll and Tony Arruza. BELOW: Nathan and Julie Slack. Photos provided by Jacek Gancarz

     The Cultural Council is on a roll. It enjoyed the largest turnout ever for an exhibit debut at its Lake Worth headquarters in December — for a surfboard show. A members-only packed house Dec. 1 greeted the unveiling of 15x15, a display of specially made surfboards embossed with photographs taken by West Palm Beach photographer Tony Arruza. The open house the following night was even more impressive.
    “We had to make people wait in line outside,” Blades said.        

      Blades was hesitant to stage the show, which runs through Jan. 21 (with free admission), because the council usually promotes artists in groups. Artists Services Manager Nichole Hickey changed her mind. “Where a museum may not take a chance, we can,” Blades added. “And I’m delighted we did.”
Where there’s Smoke, there’s still fire, but Bryan Tyrell isn’t stoking it. Two years after he was introduced as a Kansas City barbecue legend who would be executive chef at Smoke BBQ in Delray Beach, Tyrell has moved on. He’s overseeing the pit at the amusingly named Pig-Sty on Boynton Beach Boulevard. It’s just west of I-95 across from Wendy’s and Checkers. Ain’t nearly as big as Smoke, but Tyrell is offering a variety of barbecue styles from Texas to Kansas City to Carolina under the slogan “Come, Eat, Leave.” Curiously, the Contact Us page on the website was blank, but you'll find the address and phone number in the menu.
    Pig-Sty even serves breakfast from 7 a.m. Basic sandwiches are $6.99 ($5 on Mondays and any day for cops, firefighters and military).  
    Smoke’s still smokin’ in Delray, at least through this season. Its owners have another Smoke in Fort Lauderdale and have plans for another spot in Broward County.
    Believing the date will bring him luck, Delray Beach developer Frank McKinney is offering the initial public view of his first “Micro Mansion” on Friday, Jan. 13. Only 4,000 square feet, it is packed with luxury — sea-glass kitchen, living reef aquarium wall, two pools with floating sundeck, 650-square-foot master bedroom suite with second- floor outdoor glass shower surrounded by trees. All for $3.9 million, up from a bid of $3.5 million last fall. Visitors are asked to make a donation to McKinney’s Caring House Project Foundation, which has built 24 self-sufficient villages in Haiti. RSVP 655-8178.
    The fourth annual Delray Beach Fashion Week kicks off five wildly fashionable days Jan. 25 with an art invitational at the Downtown Artists/Gallery Showcase and a runway fashion show on Atlantic Avenue in front of The Colony Hotel. The highlight is the Stiletto Race on Atlantic on Friday night, accompanied by raffles, giveaways, silent auctions, all for the benefit of Achievement Centers for Children and Families. (243-1077)

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