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 stmaartens@hotmail.com or russhamilton665@hotmail.com.

"It has always been such a grand place," says Votaw.

28 comments

This sucks.

"There was no warning, and the employees were given no notice. It's like someone has died."
Its been on the market for months.

SO SO SAD. I hope that Nicole and Russ at least knew that it would be closing. I know a group of my alumni friends were trying to start a fund to buy it so it could stay open. Guess that fell through. Maybe there is a saint out there somewhere that will re-open the bar that taught me how to drink. RIP Maartens! Jim, Russ, Nicole, Carlo, Meredith, Trigon, UTS, Brewster, Cochise you are in my thoughts today.

Sad news. Loved this place.

I heard the closing was due to Jim's health issues. On another note, I also heard Club 216 also closed? is this true? RIP St. Martens

@HMM???? Yes.. Club 216 fell very behind on their rent payments. They were one of the only businesses to still operate with a late-night liquor license in Charlottesville. When Rapture attempted to take over their building (because they fell behind on their rent, significantly) and thus obtain the late-night license, Club 216 owners decided they didn't want Rapture to have the late-night license and so they put a padlock on the door, effectively "dissolving" the license. No where left to drink until 5AM but your own house now :( And no cheap wings!!

So sad! I have such fond (albeit foggy) memories of Marteens. One less place for my future Wahoo to visit. :-(

I can't believe it. My husband and I ate our first dinner here together, and we even ate there the night we got engaged, as a celebration of the night we "met." Are they doing things like selling pieces of the bar or something? They could make a lot of money that way, hopefully covering some costs of the closing. My husband and I would definitely buy a momento to remember the place by! Best wishes to you all!

i worked in the kitchen at maartens between 89-91. one night a coworker convinced me to eat some magic mushrooms before our shift. that was a weird night, to say the least. RIP SM, you will be missed.

Bummer indeed, always a good solid place to grab a bite and brew. I remember when it was TJ's, one of the original Cville sports bars. No doubt something cool will pop up, the location is just too prime to avoid.

Inevitable after years of excruciating mediocrity.

I wish I would have known in advance. They have the BEST spinach dip I have EVER had!!!!! I also love their steak night, and I would have at least went a few times, if I knew I would never be able to have it again!

The other restaurant (owned by Jim's ex wife and for a long time had many of the same menu items) also closed over in Waynesboro and is now a Mexican restaurant. I'm so sad that both of these places are gone. We will miss you, Jim!

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This place and the wings are the SINGLE reason why I was in Charlottesville on what turned out to be the BEST NIGHT of my entire life, January 08, 2000 - the night I met Carey my better half and mother to my 4 kids. Hmmm... I wonder how much they want for it.

Would love to see a CVS or another Donut Shop here. Some of your posts drip of silly UVa "Wahoo-Wah" stupidity and pretension. Where do I begin?
As John Cleese said decades ago: "Oh don't be so sentimental, mother. People die every day."
Any business with a French name in this town should be doomed anyway. Now I am off to buy some $200 pillowcases on the Downtown Mall.
Au revoir!
R.I.P.: Tim Horton

Good bye to the place wh I celebrated my first legal drink....or i guess i should say drinks.....good luck with the future!

St. Maartens is a *Dutch* name, from the Netherlands, not a French name. In this case it is named after the island in the Dutch West Indies.

I'm an alumnus of The Rising Sun Bakery and GoPal Bicycles, and I remember when TJ's became St. Maarten's. I have to agree about the food being mediocre, but certainly no worse than any of the 'casual dining' chains, well priced and with a great atmosphere (not too pretentious). It's just kind of wild and sad how much the little 14th St. Mini-mall has changed over the years.

How sad. Where will undergraduates go to get laid now?

This was the "Cheers" of Charlottesville.

I was the little girl that fed the fish there and loved the mermaids, swords and cherries that garnished the Shirley Temples. Wish I would have visited more as an adult. RIP ST. Maartens.

In the 80's I was the little girl that fed the fish there and loved the mermaids, swords and cherries that garnished the Shirley Temples. Wish I would have visited more as an adult. RIP ST. Maartens.

PODCAST: Remembering Maartens, http://bit.ly/yoqlWb

Sad...I thought they were going to sell. Jim was an older fraternity brother so it what a great opportunity to be around when the whole thing began. My often used mug remains in the freezer. I hope someone comes in and keeps the atmosphere and my best to Jim in Linda in their retirement.

In response to earlier criticism:
I know that in this busy world, people rarely take the time to stop and say: "Thank you", "I care", "You will be missed", "You are family", but that's exactly what we were saying. That's the statement we were making. It wasn't about us at all... (Nor was it about a building) And regarding the group that was gathered, apart from my sister, I did not know the others, but we assembled ourselves for the common purpose of paying tribute to the magic, memories and crew of St. Maarten Cafe. I've never had an alcoholic beverage from St. Maarten, mostly because I had to return to work. However, I did make, (at least), a weekly visit there for some very awesome dishes, prepared by Chef, Owner and long-time friend, Jim Roland. And on many occasion, Jim or some of the staff (Meredith or Shannon) would often sit at our table... And that's just a "taste" of the the way it was at St. Maarten Cafe. At the end of a ten hour shift, I learned from facebook that a vigil was being planned. (I'll be the first to admit, I had never heard of a vigil for the closing of any establishment.) I am however confident that if a time had been posted, the crowd would have been much larger. Also, if you are so inclined, check out Friends of St Maarten's on facebook; Currently 751 members strong!

One of the many friends of St. Maarten Cafe

Any business, particularly a restaurant, that lives survives in Charlottesville, deserves accolades that go beyond whether or not one liked their spinach salad. I served at St. Maarten's for 7 years, when Jim and Linda opened the place that was formerly known as TJ's. The closure of this restaurant has brought hundreds of people to speak of it on Facebook, where I have learned the names and experiences of those who came after me. And like me they have loads of memories that speak of friendship, love, community and laughter that ensues when you all put your hearts together and become part of a place. Charlottesville doesn't have many like St. Maarten. For those of you who knew it, I raise my mug to you. For those of you who didn't, I hope you find a place as good someday. Surf's Up!

I have very fond memories of St. Maartens. I always went on the 2 for 1 wings night, which was Tuesday; 16 wings for $6.99 I think! Awesome!!! You had to ask for the Death Wings, as they weren't posted on the menu. I've never had better wings in my entire life. So, from all the taste bud masochists out there, I need to offer you a genuine and whole hearted thanks! I lived in C'ville from 89-98 and thoroughly enjoyed your establishment. R.I.P. St. Maarten's

It is reopening! !!