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The Villages
Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Sadness turns into suspicion as Villagers mourn loss of Katie Belle’s

What was initially sadness is turning into suspicion with regard to the decision to shut down the legendary Katie Belle’s.

Kathy Mongerio of the Sounds of Time recalls the thrill of being “discovered” and becoming a regular musical performer back in the days of the famed Katie Belle’s dance hall.

The Sounds of Time were performers at Katie Belle’s.

“Mr. (Harold) Schwartz came to the blue-and-white tent to see our show and told us he liked our music. From there we went to the tent on Spanish Springs while the square and Katie Belle’s and more was being built,” said Mongerio, remembering some of the earlier days at The Villages’ original town square.

The Tony and Kathy Mongerio duo went onto perform a Wednesday afternoon country/oldies show for nine years at Katie Belle’s.

Linda Dalziel of the Village of Santo Domingo met her husband Lyle 12 years ago. Their first date was at Katie Belle’s. They became Tuesday night regulars and loved the music of Amee Reese and the late Tony D.

The late Tony D was a beloved regular at Katie Belle’s.

“We had dinner and we drank and boy did we dance. All in gorgeous surroundings — which was one of the deciding factors for me to move to The Villages in 2007 from San Diego, California,” Dalziel said.

She said the 2015 remodeling of Katie Belle’s changed everything.

“We did go for dinner, cocktails and a few shows at the remodeled Katie Belle’s — and while it was beautifully done, and the food was good — it just didn’t have that ‘feel.’ We miss the ‘old’ Katie Belle’s — and now we are sorry that even the ‘new’ won’t be around anymore.  It’s another sad development in our strange new world to be sure,” she said.

The Country Western Wednesday dancers hit the floor at Katie Belle’s for the last time in 2015, prior to the renovation.

Some residents say they aren’t ready to raise the white flag when it comes to the legendary club named for Schwartz’s mother.

“How would one go about convincing the Morse family that Katie Belle’s must be restored? It’s an institution and will be sorely missed. It was one of the restaurants in The Villages that was consistently good and lots of fun especially for special occasions. Hard to imagine that this decision was made without regard for all of Katie Belle’s fans,” said Villager Sam Krause.

Entertainers Josh Leggett and Mary Jo VItale on stage at Katie Belle’s in 2014.

Others suspect the Morse family was looking for a reason to shut down Katie Belle’s and that COVID-19 provided the excuse.

“The Villages says that this is a result of the Coronavirus. I say BS. My opinion is this is an excuse to open something in the future down south. That’s what they have been doing since they started Fenney, catering to the new construction and ignoring everyone else. We have now lost two restaurants, and a recreation center but they keep building more for everyone below County Road 466A,” said Villager Bill Sheaffer.

His suspicions are shared by other residents.

“As I am among the residents in The Villages who frequent Katie Belle’s, I am perplexed to understand the REASON (real reason) why this closure is necessary. Maybe full knowledge would help those of us who question this action to accept it. We still might not like the closing, but at least we would be ‘in the know,’” said Villager Jan Lindsey.

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