Pressure is mounting for the resurrection of Katie Belle’s on the heels of the Lady Lake Commission’s rejection of a plan for seven apartments at the former home of the legendary dance hall.
An angry mob of Villagers forced a 3-2 vote Monday night on The Villages’ plan for the apartments at the Van Patten House at Spanish Springs Town Square. Mayor Jim Rietz along with Commissioners Paul Hannan and Ed Freeman have at least temporarily brushed off fears that The Villages will file another lawsuit against the town in an attempt to force through the apartments. The Villages management has previously indicated it wants a total of 45 apartments at Spanish Springs. Many residents fear apartments will end the fun and vibrancy of The Villages’ original town square.
Community Development District 2 Supervisor Jim Cipollone has proposed that the Amenity Authority Committee explore the idea of taking over and reviving Katie Belle’s. He has suggested that Katie Belle’s be restored to its former glory and operated as a Villagers-only amenity.
Many of the residents at Monday’s Lady Lake Commission had clearly embraced the idea of action by the AAC, which oversees the expenditure of amenity money north of County Road 466.
“We wholeheartedly support the revival of Katie Belle’s! It was a HUGE draw before it closed, and we need it back to support Spanish Springs. Our movie theater just sits there, going on three years now ‘Opening Soon!’ I was told the farmer’s market isn’t coming back; Cruise Night and The Sharon are about all we have,” said Villager Marcy Novak.
Villagers Don and Carole Ferguson said the suggestion the AAC take over the operation of Katie Belle’s is the “most exciting” idea they have heard.
“Re-establishment of Katie Belle’s, or the concept contained in the original purpose of Katie Belle’s is simply a wonderful idea!” Don Ferguson said.
Other residents are in agreement.
“My wife and I support the idea of the AAC re-establishing Katie Belle’s. We went to it a few times (when it was still the two-story structure) and enjoyed the food and the entertainment. It was a wonderful atmosphere and we also loved that it was only for Villagers,” said Villager George Graham.
Villager Susan Moore said the exclusivity factor would be key to the relaunching of Katie Belle’s.
“When my husband and I first visited The Villages, Katie Belle’s was and will always be our favorite place. We would love to see it reopen to only Village residents and guests. It could definitely be a money maker if managed properly,” Moore said.
Villager Ellen Harcourt said poor management doomed Katie Belle’s.
“Had the original Katie Belle’s been left as a private club for residents only and retained its original design, I’m pretty sure it would still be profitable,” she said.