WASHINGTON — The demolition of one of Southwest D.C.’s most beloved watering holes continued Wednesday, with the sight being described as gut-wrenching by one local.
Cantina Marina was forced to close in 2017 ahead of Phase II of The Wharf development.
The eatery and bar was cherished by locals, and fond memories were forged there.
“It truly was the neighborhood bar/restaurant,” Gina Genis, a photographer and member of Wharf Wrats, told WTOP. “You could show up in shorts and flip-flops with no makeup — nobody cared. It was a place you could escape [to] and find a familiar face to chat with.”
(Video courtesy of @WharfWrats on Instagram)
Genis said the staff was a big part of the allure: “The crew at Cantina Marina were very real, irreverent and down to earth. The locals understood this. Outsiders didn’t.”
Some of her fondest memories are of the Halloween parties the restaurant threw every year.
“The locals took it seriously and the costumes were off the charts,” Genis said. She went as a peacock for the last party.
Given the bar’s importance for so many in the neighborhood, seeing it get demolished was “like someone stuck their fists down my throat, grabbed my stomach and yanked it out,” Genis said.
Even the pier the restaurant sat on needs to be torn down.
“They’ve got to knock down this pier and build us a new pier,” Cantina Marina managing partner Richard Hemmer told WTOP in October 2017. “Nobody else is out over the water like we are.”
Hemmer said some of the bar’s signature items — such as the wood, the pirate and the mermaids — were being put in storage to decorate the new space when it reopens, probably in late 2020 or early 2021.
But Genis said there’s little chance the new joint will maintain the charm of the old.
“With The Wharf being designed as a high-end destination place, Cantina Marina will have to follow suit,” she said. “There is nothing in our neighborhood, and I don’t think ever will be, that will take the place of Cantina Marina.”
During the hiatus, a smaller version named Cantina Bambina — a two-story concession stand and bar next to The Anthem’s box office — was opened.
Many employees are staying with the Cantina Marina group by transitioning to either the Cantina Bambina or the Pearl Street Warehouse, which the Cantina owners opened at The Wharf Phase I.
WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.