After 26 years, St. Maarten Café closes
News about the sudden closing of St. Maarten Café on the Corner, the place with the Buffett vibe (Jimmy, not Warren) long before Cheeseburger in Paradise, spread like wildfire on social media websites.
"I was totally overloaded," says Lisa Roland, wife of owner Jim Roland, after a reporter called January 30 to verify the news. "My computer is going crazy, my phone is ringing. But, yes, St. Maarten Café is closed."
A Friends of St. Maarten Café Facebook group immediately grabbed 200 members– over 350 by 6pm on the day this news was reported at readthehook.com– and some of those commenting describe bursting into tears at hearing the news. Long-time patron Marianne Votaw, who says she first started visiting the restaurant in 1985, the year it opened, says she plans to organize a vigil outside the building on Tuesday night.
"Are you kidding me?" Roland laughs. "We knew this was going to be big news, but it's been bigger than we thought it would be."
Roland says her husband prefers not to talk about the reasons for the sudden closure. After 26 years, she says, "it's just too tough right now." However, he did post a comment on the restaurant's Facebook page: "A big thank you for your friendship and patronage the past 26 years. It has been the most amazing ride of a lifetime as they says...I shall miss all your faces. God Bless, Jim."
Back in 2008, WINA radio personality Coy Barefoot interviewed Jim Roland for the restaurant's 24th year of, as their sign says, "seafood, burgers, friends & fun."
A sign on the door of the window-less restaurant that touched so many people indicates the business is for sale.
"We are completely bereft," says Votaw, whose nephew worked at the restaurant. "There was no warning, and the employees were given no notice. It's like someone has died."
Votaw says it was a great place to be a regular, and that in addition to relaxing there as a young UVA student, she later brought her young children, and then celebrated her 50th birthday at the restaurant. Indeed, patrons could store their own personal beer mugs at the restaurant. If you have one there, you can get it back by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
"It has always been such a grand place," says Votaw.