Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for March, 2007

Hops is back in Palm Harbor, and it’s good!

 hopsHops Grill & Brewery is a chain of casual restaurants that also brew their own beers. There is a Hops in Palm Harbor, on the southbound side of US19 between Tampa Road and Nebraska, and we used to eat there quite a bit. They had good steaks that were well-priced, they had an entree called South Beach Chicken that I liked a lot, and they had very good burgers.

Then we got the feeling that Hops sort of lost its way. Their prices went up quite a bit, and they changed their menu. In February of 2004 the chain’s parent company filed for bankruptcy, and about 15 Hops restaurants were closed.

To make matters worse, our local Hops restaurant was struck by lightning a day or two after Christmas, and the resulting fire did about $200,000 worth of damage. The place was closed for weeks, and we wondered if it would ever re-open.

I recently noticed that Hops had re-opened, so last night we gave it a try. And we were plesantly surprised. They were offering a 9-ounce steak for $10.99, and we both ordered it. It was quite good, and more than enough to eat.

We were also glad to see that Key Lime pie was still on the menu. We tried that, too, and found that the Hops key lime pie is still among the best you can find, just like we remembered.

Here is how Hops describes itself on its website: “We are a casual dining microbrewery restaurant that offers fresh, made from scratch menu items in a relaxed atmosphere featuring signature dishes that are created from high-quality, fresh ingredients and prepared in a display style kitchen that allows you to view the cooking process.”

We were pleasantly surprised to see that Hops is open once again, and pleased to note that it has returned to its roots of good food and good prices. Other people must be feeling good about it, too — the place was just about full.

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Gov. Crist is going after Florida’s property tax rates

Gov. Charlie Crist delivered his State-of-the-Union address yesterday to the members of the Florida legislature. And he continued to hammer hard on the notion of tax relief.

Crist told the legislators that property tax rates in Florida are out of control. He said the legislature should come up with proposals to reduce property taxes — and then put those proposals before voters for their approval before the end of the year.

“The American dream of home ownership is being crushed under the weight of property taxes,” Crist said. “It will require bold and decisive leadership to reverse this trend and make the Florida dream more affordable.”

Crist says he has some ideas of his own for lowering property taxes. But he also said he’s interested in hearing the ideas of others. But he was clear in saying that he wants Florida voters to get a chance to approve or disapprove the plan that legislators come up with. That may be harder than it sounds — it will take a three-quarters vote of the legislature to get a special election scheduled in a non-election year.

Crist has only been in office since the first of January, but he’s already taken some actions that should be welcome news to homeowners and prospective homeowners. Recently, he demanded that the legislature pursue lower homeowner insurance rates, which had skyrocketed. The result was a plan that should lower premiums significantly statewide.


Good news about homeowners insurance

After months of steep increases in homeowners insurance rates, it looks as though Florida homeowners may finally be getting some relief.
State insurance regulators are saying that property insurance premiums will soon be cut around 25 percent. The rate decrease will apply to owners of single family homes as well as to owners of mobile homes and condos.
The actual amount of the decrease will vary from region to region within Florida, but in the Tampa Bay area the decrease should run between 18 and 35 percent. The biggest local decreases will be right here in Pinellas County.
Actually, the decreases will apply only to the part of the homeowners policy that covers wind damage. But that’s okay — the wind damage clause in coastal areas can be as much as 50 percent of ther total premium.
The insurance premum savings are a result of a state law enacted around the first of the year. The law allows insurance companies to buy more “re-insurance” from the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which is a state-backed agency.
Homeowners insurance rates went up steeply in Florida after the state experiences a couple of bad hurricane seasons. Insurance companies raised rates and also cancelled thousands of policies.
Those increases, along with rising property values and increase property taxes, had a chilling effect on home sales in Florida. But the lower insurance rates should serve as an important stimulant to home sales.
A good deal of credit for the lower rates belongs to Florida’s new governor, Charlie Crist, who took office in January. Crist made it plain that insurance rates needed to come down, and apparently the insurance companies and others were listening.