Recent News

New Changes Set for Pensacola Beach Boardwalk

Big changes are taking place at the popular Pensacola Beach Boardwalk Shopping Center. 

Lucas' Where Locals Go, a new restaurant and bar, has replaced the Cactus Flower Cafe Mexican restaurant.

Renovation for a new, 4,900-square-foot Ron Jon Surf Shop is underway across from Lucas' at the former site of Envie Boutique and The Wine Bar. Meanwhile, Envie has relocated to a smaller space on the waterfront in place of Salty Beach Outfitters.

It's all part of the overall vision of Robert Babcock, CEO of Premier Island Management Group. Babcock's company oversees development of the beach's main shopping and entertainment district. 

Babcock said his goal was to promote a friendly environment with good food that would attract local residents. He started with Lucas Moore, longtime manager of The Wine Bar on the beach. Moore, who is well-known among beach residents, had built a large customer base at The Wine Bar, which has now been replaced by his new venture, Lucas' Where Locals Go.

"We challenged Lucas to make this his own," Babcock said during an interview inside the new space. "He pretty much took it to the next level."

Moore has created a warm environment with a menu that includes plenty of comfort food offerings as well as large selection of wines and craft beer.  He is especially excited about Sunday brunch, which will included the always-popular bottomless mimosas. 

"I like developing relationships with customers, spending time with them and getting to know them," Moore said. 

Heem Chee, vice president with Premier Island Management, touted Lucas' locally sourced menu items. Chee said the restaurant went out of its way to work with local fishermen and other vendors. He especially likes the tuna sashimi and grouper. 

Although Lucas' has been open for less than two weeks, the restaurant has already had many repeat customers, Moore said. 

"I am proud of that, I want to be a gathering spot for people out here on the beach," Moore said.

At the former Wine Bar location inside what will now house Ron Jon's, Moore estimated about 75 percent of his customers were from the local area. He thinks his new space will attract about 60 percent local customers and 40 percent tourists. Either way, he said, to succeed he will need to rely on repeat customers and a strong word-of-mouth reputation. 

With other changes talking place at the Boardwalk Shopping Center, Babcock said it made sense to move Envie, an upscale men's and women's clothing boutique, to the former Salty Beach Outfitters location. Babock said Salty Beach had similar offerings to Ron Jon's, which is expected to open this spring. 

But Envie is the only upscale clothing boutique on the beach, he said. 

"We are trying to cater to the community and find the right mix of what people want out here," he said. 

Representatives from Cactus Flower did not return phone calls Monday about their decision to leave the boardwalk.

Melissa Nelson Gabriel can be reached at or 850-426-1431.



    Annual Art and Wine Festival - Sunday, October 23, 2016Pensacola Beach Boardwalk

    Sip, Stroll and Shop at the 2016 Pensacola Beach Art & Wine Festival. The Pensacola Beach Boardwalk will transform into an artist and wine lover's paradise on Sunday, October 23, 2016. 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

    Advance tickets for the tastings are $30.00 or $50.00 for a pair, and can be purchased by going to through Thursday, October 20, 2016.

    A select number of tickets will be availalbe for purchase for $35.00 the day of the event.

    Boarding March 2017!Ferry Service to Land at Pensacola Beach Boardwalk

    Two 150-passenger ferry boats are expected to be delivered in the beginning of 2017 and will make stops between downtown Pensacola, Pensacola Beach (at the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk), and Fort Pickens. For the entire article about this exciting new addition to Pensacola, please click on the link below to read all about it.

    Great Things Are Being Said About the Boardwalk!A TripShock Review of Pensacola Beach Boardwalk

    After a recent stay in the beautiful Pensacola, TripShock has posted a lovely review all about the experiences to be had at the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk. Stating that we offer "more than your typical water-side alameda," the review proceeds to detail all of the activities offered at the Boardwalk.

    Pensacola Beach Featured on HGTV!

    Brian and Harriett are moving their three kids from Tampa to Pensacola, Florida, to be closer to family, but they have very different priorities. Harriet loves "wow factor", and would love to find a home near the beach with grand Greek Revival style and a gourmet kitchen. Brian is more concerned with safety, and would prefer a sturdy ranch style home farther inland, where the family will be protected from hurricanes. With a $450,000 budget can they find a place that's the perfect balance of style and safety? View this episode on Thursday, July 3rd at 9:00pm CST on HGTV!

    HGTV spotlights Pensacola Beach

    It's for real this time.

    Local real estate agent Kimberly Gettle said she's confirmed that the episode of HGTV's "Beachfront Bargain Hunt," in which she is featured selling a Colorado couple a Pensacola Beach home, will air this Sunday.

    The episode initially was slated for April, but did not air at that time, causing Gettle to cancel a "watch party."

    "It's been confirmed, it's on HGTV's website," she said.

    The episode will feature Gettle showing four properties on the beach to buyers Matthew and Salina Anderson.

    HGTV shot the segment in February.

    Gettle is a real estate agent at ERA Old South Properties and is vice chairwoman of the Pensacola Association of Realtors Young Professional Network. She also is involved in Pensacola Young Professionals.

    "Beachfront Bargain Hunt" airs on HGTV, and the episode featuring Gettle airs at 7 p.m. Sunday.

    Gettle, who is 33, says HGTV specifically sought her out because she's young.

    "They wanted a young agent and young clients to show the world you don't have to be older to buy a bargain home on the beach," she said.

    Beyond being able to find the couple a home in paradise within their $250,000 range, Gettle says she believes the TV show will bring national attention to the beach, with the potential to draw more tourism and added business.

    "And I hope it will bring more people interested in migrating here —from Cantonment to the beach," she said.

    Pensacola Beach, as well as the Pensacola area, seems to be a hot filming location, based on the number of production crews that since the beginning of the year have been flying and driving into town to showcase their series against the backdrop of our beaches, historical districts, Naval Air Station and entertainment venues.

    Travel Channel filmed an episode for an upcoming series "American Grilled" in April that pits grill masters against one another in an ultimate outdoor cooking challenge.

    A crew for National Public Television's "Family Travel with Colleen Kelly" shot at many of Pensacola's iconic attractions, also in April.

    And last month, a crew from Spain was in town shooting a film about Spanish Commander Bernardo de Galvez, who more than 230 years ago helped wrestle control of Pensacola from the British during the Revolutionary War.

    And this came on the heels of Clay Palmgren and Jackie Watts of Gulf Breeze appearing in a Discovery Channel Network episode of Destination America's "Buying the Bayou" program.

    Savor beachside flavor at Taste of the Beach Event showcases Pensacola Beach restaurants

    Savor beachside flavor at Taste of the Beach Event showcases Pensacola Beach restaurants Chef Chris Kelly presents a Wild Boar Cuban sandwich. Items like this will be among the treats to be sampled by the public at the upcoming Taste of the Beach event. Kelly is the Senior Executive Chef for the Wine Bar at The Boardwalk, Laguna's and the Portofino Island Resort. / Bruce Graner/ Written by Jahna Jacobson News Journal correspondent Cilantro lime fish taco presented by Chef Chris Kelly, Senior Executive Chef for The Wine Bar at The Boardwalk, Laguna's and the Portofino Island Resort. / Bruce Graner/ Back in the old days, beach food meant a snow cone and a sandy hot dog. Today, Pensacola Beach has evolved into a true dining destination. Sure, they’ve got the sliders and the wings and the things that go great with a cold beer after a hot day on the sand, but there are fine dining options, too. From upscale seafood and global dining to traditional beach bar fare, no matter what your taste, you’ll find something on the menu. Taste of the Beach brings them all together for a unique opportunity to sample everything the beach has to offer in one stop without breaking the bank. The fifth annual festival, which takes place at the Gulfside Pavilion on Pensacola Beach, brings together 20 of the beach’s best-loved eateries for two days of decadent dining. Beach restaurant chefs were invited to bring their signature dishes, and the variety of dishes shows the true diversity of what Pensacola Beach has to offer, said Maureen LaMar, president of the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce. “The event is growing and adding more chefs, restaurants and activities each year,” LaMar said. “Last year, we had two chefs giving demonstrations. This year we have five,” said LaMar. It’s a sign that the beach is thriving and drawing a group of visitors willing to support a variety of businesses, she added. “And it’s unique in that it is just our local chefs from the beach.” Participating Chef Chris Kelly took over Laguna’s, the Wine Bar on the Portofino Boardwalk and dining at Portofino Island Resort just two weeks before the summer season began this year. Both Laguna’s and the Wine Bar will be represented at the event. The beach has really come into its own as a dining destination, and offers something for everyone, Kelly said. “Laguna’s is a little bit of South by Southwest, and the Wine Bar can really mix it up, because wine is worldwide,” Kelly said. “At the Taste of the Beach event, we’re trying to do something at each station that embodies what each of the concepts do. The challenge with Taste of the Beach is to keep it simple, but still be reflective of what you do.” Laguna’s will be offering blackened fish tacos with roasted corn salsa. The Wine Bar will be serving Cuban sandwiches with Jarlsberg cheese. Kelly is also one of the five chefs who will be doing demonstrations at the event, but hasn’t made a final decision on what he’ll prepare. “It will most likely be something from the Laguna’s menu — something Southwestern.” Some of the chefs will also participate in a dessert and Jack Daniels cooking competitions, LaMar said. The event will also include a Corvette show, free entertainment, a people’s choice awards ceremony, kids games and other activities. “It’s a great opportunity to get everyone together and show what we have on the beach and what’s different from downtown and what makes us different from the rest of Pensacola,” Kelly said. “And it’s a chance for every outlet, big or small, to show everyone what they’ve got to offer.” “And it’s just a chance to come down to the beach and have a last hurrah for the season.”

      International Boutique, Owner Margaret Araujo - Making A Difference

      Making a difference Margaret A. Araujo, the owner of The International Boutique & Gift Shop on Pensacola Beach, was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, and learned at an early age, “Never to take anything for granted. If you wanted something, be ready to work for it — and I have.” Araujo purchased the business in 2004 after Hurricane Ivan, and it took two more years before the Boutique was up and running. The shop is small, unique, and presents an old-world charm that has developed a loyal following of returning locals and tourists. “I know that different cultures have unique styles, and since we are such a multicultural world, I try to buy with that in mind at the various markets,” Araujo said. “Being a woman in small business is satisfying in many ways. The best thing is, there is a satisfaction in knowing that you can make a difference, even if it is a small one. Through working in the boutique, I have met some wonderful ladies and have some great stories,’’ she said. “Overall, being a success for me is loving what you do, using your experiences, your upbringing, and your beliefs to do your work, and doing it well. I believe there has to be more women running companies because women understand the tastes and aspirations of the largest group of consumers in the world — namely women,’’ Araujo said. “Being a small business owner is the hardest thing I have ever done — rewarding and very challenging. To any woman thinking about starting a business, I will say you must be willing to take a risk, know that you might fail and remembering that nothing is forever.”

        Portofino manager seeks to bring resort's glitz to beach boardwalk

        After successfully energizing the Portofino Resort vacation experience, one of the newest movers and shakers on Pensacola Beach has set his sights on pumping up the action at Portofino Boardwalk. Rob Babcock wants to make the boardwalk an extension of the Portofino Resort, transforming it into a year-round shopping, dining and entertainment destination. He's seeking not just tourists but locals, a concept similar to but much smaller than Village of Baytowne Wharf at Sandestin. "When families wake up on Saturday morning, we want them to say, 'Let's see what's going on at the boardwalk,' " he said. "We love the tourists. But we define our success by getting the locals to embrace our businesses." Earlier this year, Babcock and wife, Sabine Laguna, opened three boardwalk businesses: Laguna's restaurant and bar; Envie boutique; and the Wine Bar. In February, they plan to open two more retail shops in spaces to be vacated by Intracoastal Outfitters and Islander's Surf & Sport. He wouldn't say what those businesses are. Babcock also is working on bringing more family attractions to the boardwalk, similar to the Dolphin Cruises he introduced this summer at Hemingway's Island Grill's pier. Building on success Robert Rinke, Portofino Resort developer and the master leaseholder on Portofino Boardwalk, is confident Babcock will succeed in his new ventures, based on what he's already done for Portofino Resort. In 2008, Babcock left the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Miramar Beach, including The Village of Baytowne Wharf, to launch his own company, Premier Island Management Group. Premier's first undertaking was to manage and develop outdoor adventure amenities and increase vacation rentals at Portofino Resort. Rinke said Babcock's impact was immediate. "Rob has not only brought back all of our adventures, but we've seen over the years a steady and powerful growth in our resort room nights, from 35,000 nights a year to this year, we'll hit 65,000 nights." Before Babcock's company took over the homeowners association-owned restaurant, it operated in the red, to the tune of a $250,000 loss a year, Rinke said. "Two years later, the restaurant is bringing in $1.5 million and the homeowners are not losing money; they're making money," he said. Change initiated Just as Rinke said he recruited the "right" talent for transforming Portofino Resort, Babcock believes he's done the same thing for transforming the boardwalk. He has hired Meg Peltier, the former president and CEO and of the Gulf Breeze Area Chamber of Commerce, as director of business development because she long has had her finger on the pulse of the local community. "I was impressed with Rob's vision for Portofino, and what they're trying to accomplish at Portofino Boardwalk ..." Peltier said. "We want to work closely with the Pensacola Beach Chamber and make the boardwalk a great place for people to come and spend their time in the offseason." Peltier is working with the boardwalk merchants to roll out a host of regular and special events, beginning with First Friday this week. The monthly event will feature entertainment and merchant discounts, with a goal to get more locals acquainted with the boardwalk, Peltier said. "It's a business and social evening like the one I went to called South Street Seaport in New York, near Wall Street," she said. "Everyone met and socialized. It was a lot of fun. We're just trying to reclaim the boardwalk for the locals." Peltier also is in charge of spearheading Premier's newest initiatives aimed at expanding Portofino resort amenities to local residents and the business community. She's developing and promoting Club Portofino, a membership that allows the public to use the resort's amenities; Beach 3.4, a membership that allows the public to use the resort's beach services and amenities; and Dine Portofino, which allows the public to use the resort restaurant and gives discounts at Laguna's. She's also partnering with the boardwalk merchants to bring them into community events, including today's Art and Wine Fest on Pensacola Beach and Baptist Health Care's "Bras Across the Bridge" fundraiser on Oct. 22. Maureen LaMar, executive director of the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce, believes the boardwalk activities will help amp up the events on the beach. "First Friday is a wonderful idea," she said. "It's not only for local residents but for the business crowd from Pensacola to get to know their business partners across the bridge, and maybe they'll come out and visit us in the fall and winter." Brian Tucker, owner of Wade Scott Salon in Gulf Breeze, said he rarely visited the Portofino Boardwalk until Peltier recently encouraged him to give it a try. Now, he and his friends are regulars at Laguna's "Meg has hosted Alabama football parties for us, about 12 of us initially, and that has grown to the point now that we have Alabama, Florida State, Miami and LSU fans rotating in and out all day long," he said. "They've been wonderful in accommodating us. Their customer service is huge." Taking a risk Mike McLaughlin lives at Portofino Resort and admires Babcock's entrepreneurial spirit, although he's worried it may be too ambitious for these economic times. McLaughlin and his wife, Lee, have been in the retail business for more than 30 years here and in Mississippi. Last year, they relocated their women's boutique, Lee Tracy, from the boardwalk to Gregory Street store in Pensacola, and they are closing down their Intracoastal Outfitters on the boardwalk. Both of the boardwalk businesses had strong local support, but could not withstand the downturn in business after the BP oil spill last year, McLaughlin said. "Rob is phenomenal," Mike McLaughlin said. "There's no resort until you get to the Naples area that comes close to the amenities we have at Portofino. But I wish him luck on the boardwalk." Tom Carmichael, co-owner of Capt'n Fun Beach Club, the first business to open on the boardwalk, said he's all for anything to develop the boardwalk as a destination. "There are plenty of opportunities to do all kinds of things in the daytime, and as you go into evening we have the nighttime entertainment, just like Baytowne Wharf goes from a family shopping and dining experience into an evening nightlife experience," he said. "It's proven there, and it works." Article appearing in Pensacola News Journal by Kimberly Blair

        Dolphin Cruise

        Premier Dolphin Tours are seasonal. Please call (855) 393-7783 for reservations or book online today.

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        Get the Trolley Schedule from Visit Pensacola Beach. The trolly service is free of charge and donated by the Santa Rosa Island Authority

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