St. Maarten Cafe closes its doors

Corner bar closes after 31 years of operation

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After 31 years on the Corner, St. Maarten's Cafe is closing this Monday, Oct. 31. 

Darya Tahan | Cavalier Daily

Since 1985, St. Maarten Cafe has served Charlottesville locals and University students alike, but its long stint on the Corner will come to a close this Monday, Oct. 31.

In its 31 years of operation, St. Maarten’s has endeared itself to many — including Joe Harris, former U.Va. men’s basketball star — because of its unique atmosphere and clientele which contribute to the cafe’s experience.

Fourth-year College student Jacob Salomon started going to St. Maarten during his third year at the University.

“My favorite thing about [St. Maarten Cafe] is the community,” Salomon said. “It’s the opposite of a Trinity and Coupe’s scene.”

Part of what makes the bar’s atmosphere different from some of the other establishments on the Corner is its popularity with locals, uncommon among the many Corner bars usually packed with students. Additionally, its location on Wertland St. is slightly off the beaten path from the regular Corner stomp, which may contribute to its lower student attendance.

“[The presence of locals] makes the dynamics completely different, and I actually really enjoy that you have both students and old-timers who have been working there for a while,” fourth-year College student Brady Straus said. “So you get to know them, and you also have people from Charlottesville that have been going there for years and years.”

Salomon said another major draw to St. Maarten Cafe was its Tuesday night trivia, “Geeks Who Drink.”

“It’s really fun. A lot of people show up. There’s always this one team Kitten Mittens who apparently always wins,” Salomon said.

Another unique aspect of the cafe was its Coconut Club, whose members are its most loyal customers. These members are given the opportunity to buy a personalized pewter mug that is kept for them in St. Maarten Cafe and to be used by the members whenever they come in. Those who are inducted into the Coconut Club are lifetime members.

In response to the closing, St. Maarten Cafe posted on its Facebook page a notice of “Mug Reclamation” for members of the Coconut Club. The cafe is working to give the mugs of their customers back to them, and is prepared to ship mugs to owners who cannot retrieve them in person.

Straus, like Salomon, went to St. Maarten Cafe regularly in his third year. When he found out about the impending closing of the restaurant and bar, he said he was greatly surprised and saddened.

“I didn’t believe it,” Straus said. “You never imagine Maarten’s closing down, it’s a place that we all go.”

Both students said they learned the closing was attributed in part to expensive kitchen repair issues. Salomon — who has a friend who works at the establishment — said he had heard there were problems with the ventilation in the kitchen.

“[They] can’t really make food right now, so they have a limited menu,” Salomon said.

Although St. Maarten Cafe has a very loyal customer base, it is smaller than that of other Corner bars because of its lack of appeal to the general student population, which likely factored into the cafe’s financial difficulties in fixing the problems with the kitchen.

It is with heavy hearts that loyal student patrons of St. Maarten Cafe like Salomon and Straus must say goodbye to what Straus said is, “a U.Va staple.”

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