WASHINGTON – A wall surrounds the area where the fountain once was, and wooden boards cover what used to be windows of popular eateries Cabana’s, Nick’s Riverside Grille, and Tony & Joe’s.
That’s the scene at Washington Harbour in Georgetown nearly a year after flood waters severely damaged one of the region’s most popular summer tourist attractions.
Restaurants say they’ve been seeing bigger crowds recently, as the weather has gotten warmer. Rebuilding work has continued through quite a few weekends, and has made enjoying the outside air a bit tougher for many patrons.
“They had big construction equipment inside jackhammering with these huge drills, and do you want to sit out here and watch the dust and debris come up?” says Jim Rohacik, who recounted a lunch experience on Saturday afternoon at Tony & Joe’s.
While the restaurants have lost millions in revenue from the decline in customers, the pain has trickled down to the work staff.
A bartender at Tony & Joe’s, who did not want her name used, says the floods had a devastating affect on their restaurant.
“We had to lay off 75 percent of our work force,” she says. “Many on the staff come from Latin American countries specifically to work here.”
Nick’s Riverside Grille has been forced to do its grilling outside for the time being. It will eventually move into the space where Cabana’s used to be.
The fountain will be transformed into a skating rink for the winter.
The complex flooded on April 18, 2011, when the flood gates weren’t raised until noon — hours after 10 to 12 feet of water had already soaked the waterfront complex.
The construction work is expected to be completed sometime in June. The price tag on all the work is estimated at $20 million.
Sitting outside facing the Potomac River, first-time waterfront visitor Nigel Johnston was unfazed by the unfinished look,
“Having a business on the water, it’s prone for flooding. I think it’s great that people want to reinvest, and continue to run their businesses in this place,” Johnston says.