St. Maarten Cafe is one of the oldest establishments still in business in The University of Virginia’s Corner District. The restaurant opened its doors at 1400 Wertland St. on August 21st, 1985 and has been serving its loyal customers ever since.
The original owners of the business, Jim and Linda Roland, opened the restaurant shortly after returning from their honeymoon. Fittingly, they named it after their destination – the Carribean island of St. Maarten.
Jim operated the restaurant with the help of a faithful staff for nearly 27 years. In January 2012, he decided it was time to move on. Within hours of the restaurant closing, one of Maarten’s loyal customers – Gary Glass – created the Facebook page Friends of St. Maarten’s. Membership of this group rose to over 800 people within 24 hours, proving that Maartens was not just a normal bar, but an important place in many people’s lives.
Enter the current ownership.
Russ Hamilton and his wife Nicole – who had worked at St. Maarten Cafe for 18 and 12 years respectively – partnered with a group of regulars from the restaurant to purchase it and keep it open for their loyal patrons. The regulars – Brian Chambers, Pat Cosner, Sean Graham, Greg Kitzerow and Tim Mulholland – all alumni of UVA’s Trigon Engineering Society – had often joked about buying the place if the time came. As Tim said when the call came from Nicole – “time to put up or shut up.”
But they weren’t the only ones who helped get Maartens back on its feet. Nicole had often joked that there needed to be a “Save the Empire” party – referring to the classic cult movie Empire Records. So using the concept of having the customers help save the business, they introduced the Founder’s Club membership to go along with the Coconut Club. More than sixty regulars of the restaurant helped raise capital by purchasing a Founders Club membership. In return, each received a special 24oz Founders Mug that will forever hang in the restaurant. It was with their aid that Maartens was able to reopen and maintain the character and level of service that it has always had.
During the downtime before the restaurant reopened, lots of friends, family and former co-workers helped out with the renovations:
The new ownership kept much of what made St. Maarten Cafe the success that it was, but they also managed to find several ways to enhance the experience.
- With four large HD televisions that can be seen from anywhere in the restaurant, Maartens is now a terrific location to watch Cavalier sporting events, NFL games, MLS/World Cup soccer matches and Washington Capitals games. If you want to watch something and it’s not on – just let us know and we’ll do our best to accomodate!
- A large new outdoor patio gives customers the opportunity to enjoy the gorgeous Central Virginia weather.
- New food and drink specials make any day of the week a good day to come to St. Maarten Cafe and enjoy the great company!
You can still visit the Friends of St. Maarten’s Facebook page to keep up with old friends and regulars of St. Maarten Cafe!