Cutting Spanish Springs happy hour smacks of greed and arrogance

The recent decision to cut happy hour in half at Spanish Springs Town Square sends a clear and unpleasant message to Villagers – there’s a bunch of new sheriffs in town and they could care less about tradition or the rich history of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.

A line at the bar hut June 1 at Spanish Springs Town Square.

Of course, we’re talking about the fourth generation of the Morse family – a group that’s clearly flexing its muscles and demonstrating principles based more on greed and fat wallets than the ideals Villages Founder Harold Schwartz and his visionary son, H. Gary Morse, lived by.

Harold Schwartz

For those who might not know it, Schwartz lived in the Historic Side of the community – not in a gated compound shut off from commoners – for years and was known for walking the neighborhood to hear what his fellow residents had to say. He was a big believer in Villagers enjoying a rich lifestyle in their retirement years and we can’t imagine what he’d say about the decision to ax his happy hour in half.

Morse also would never have stood for such a moronic decision. Harold’s extended happy hour from 5-7 p.m. set Spanish Springs apart from the newer town squares of Lake Sumter Landing and Brownwood. That made perfect sense, as being the oldest town square meant Spanish Springs could struggle to maintain some Villagers’ interest. So having a longer happy hour was a smart and strategic move for the original town square that Morse actually drew on a napkin one night at dinner.

If you ask us, axing happy hour sends many bad messages. It certainly looks like greed at its worst. It demonstrates a lack of understanding about the community. And it’s yet another example of the exceptional leadership and class that was lost when Schwartz and Morse died in December 2003 and October 2014, respectively.

H. Gary Morse

Apparently, the younger generation of so-called leaders has forgotten that Spanish Springs – we’re not sure they’ve actually ever been on this side of the community – sits near the Historic Side of The Villages, where many older residents live. Many of those folks are on tight fixed incomes, so being able to get two drinks for the price of one certainly gave them a reason to visit Spanish Springs Town Square on any given night.

Unfortunately, as seems to be the norm with the new Villages brass, the happy hour change was handled terribly. With the exception of a Villages-News.com story just days before the new times went in effect on June 1, you would have thought it was a classified secret that could harm national security. So Villagers found out the hard way – when bartenders handed them one beer or mixed drink instead of the two that they were counting on enjoying.

That brings up another point. It was pretty crappy of the Morse minions to leave it to the bartenders to break the bad news. Bartenders put up with enough nonsense as it is, so it was very unfair to make them the scapegoats in the sordid plan.

On June 1 – the first night the plan of greed went into effect – bartenders were visibly wincing when they were confronted by angry Villagers. We’re betting they weren’t consulted about the happy hour cut nor invited to give input. And they certainly don’t make enough money to have to handle a bunch of angry residents who feel like one more thing is changing or being taken away from them.

Some of you will surely remember that there was a time when it was all about the residents. Schwartz and Morse were committed to making sure Villagers had every opportunity to live the best years of their lives in their community. And back then – long before they were looked at as nothing more than large dollar signs – Villagers knew their input actually meant something.

Of course, the big difference in those days was that Schwartz and Morse were the same ages as many of those who were retiring here. They understood things like the importance of giving Villagers a bargain on drinks and keeping traditions like a two-hour happy hour alive. And they would never have agreed to such a clandestine plan that was sprung on Villagers with no warning from the powers-that-be over in the Brownwood castle.

Villagers line up for drinks at a kiosk at Spanish Springs Town Square recently.

Here’s the bottom line: Once the decision was made to cut happy hour in half, Villagers should have been told about it. Sure, they would have griped and raised some hell. But they wouldn’t have been surprised on June 1 when they abruptly found out the value of their money had been cut in half.

It also would have been nice for someone in charge to step up and take responsibility. Maybe Entertainment Director Brian Russo could have left his Lake Sumter Landing Office for a change and visited Spanish Springs in person to share the news. Or maybe a fourth-generationer could have given up a night or two and come to Spanish Springs to actually talk to Villagers about the decision.

Of course, none of that happened, because The Villages is a much different place that it was just a few years ago. These days, Spanish Springs and the Historic Side appear to be nothing more than an afterthought. They apparently just don’t have the same appeal to the powers-that-be as the shiny new toys known as Fenney and Southern Oaks (translation: higher-dollar houses).

It seems like the young Morse family members have forgotten where they started and who got them to where they are today. Maybe the younger generation should spend some time actually talking to residents of the Historic Side instead of worrying about tomfoolery like driverless taxis and poorly planned balloon festivals that also robbed more than one Villager’s wallet.

As we said earlier, we think it’s a shame that The Villages czars decided to show their greed with such a petty decision. We feel bad for residents who counted on saving money on drinks while enjoying nights at Spanish Springs. And we can only wonder what the next move will be to fill the wallets of those in the fourth generation who want their big piece of the pie even though they’ve never had to work for it.