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Earthquake Hits Union Station Cafe Hard

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The Center Cafe's manager says this bottle of top-shelf cognac could've yielded more than $200 worth of shots. It broke during the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that hit the East Coast Aug. 23.
David Schultz
The Center Cafe's manager says this bottle of top-shelf cognac could've yielded more than $200 worth of shots. It broke during the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that hit the East Coast Aug. 23.

Many local businesses are still trying to determine the extent of the damage they incurred during yesterday's earthquake. Due to its location above most of the main level of Union Station, the Center Cafe there got hit harder than most.

The Center Cafe is located in Union Station's historic Main Hall. It's elevated, held up by a series of 10-foot wooden columns. That means, when an earthquake strikes, the Center Cafe is a very scary place to be.

"I was up here, and first I thought it was probably the trains," says Grace Showunmi, a bartender at the Center Cafe. "And this whole place is rocking and shaking really violently. Then I realized, 'Oh my God, we're having an earthquake.'"

At that point, her cafe turned into pandemonium.

"And it was wild. I was screaming, I had guests up and down ... and people carrying their babies. Everybody was screaming, it was so chaotic," she says.

It didn't seem like it was going to stop, she says. "So I got off, held onto a table, because this platform rocks really wildly," she says. "For a minute, I thought it might collapse to the bottom. That was how wild it was."

Eventually, though, the shaking did stop. Many of the cafe's guests had fled, leaving behind full plates of food. Behind the bar, the scene was ugly.

"All the bottles ... 90 percent of the liquor was lost," Showunmi says.

The job of cleaning up all the broken glass and spilled booze falls to the cafe's manager, Alex Lucero...

"I just finished putting everything back up that didn't break," says Lucero as he walks, crunching over the broken glass.

In an instant, Lucero lost potentially thousands of dollars in liquor, he says. A jagged shard is all that remains of a bottle of his top shelf cognac. It could've earned him more than 200 dollars in shots.

Lucero isn't sure if he has earthquake insurance. It's Washington D.C., why would he need it, he wonders.

But overall, he's not that upset. None of his guests or his employees were injured, and liquor bottles can be easily replaced.

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