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Georgetown Waterfront Bouncing Back From Floods

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Nick Cibel says two of his family's Georgetown waterfront restaurants will reopen in full in a few weeks.
Jessica Gould
Nick Cibel says two of his family's Georgetown waterfront restaurants will reopen in full in a few weeks.

It's been nearly a year since flood waters overtook the Georgetown Waterfront. Now, some businesses are getting ready to re-open.

For years, Nick Cibel's family has operated three restaurants at Washington Harbor. No amount of experience could prepare him for last year's disaster, however, when the Potomac River swelled after a stormy weekend and no flood wall was raised to hold it back.

"There was just this utter disbelief," recalls Cibel. "Denial. Anger. Frustration."

The restaurants were ruined, and 130 of their 140 employees quickly found themselves out of work. Nick's brother Dean Cibel says the family worked hard to keep the restaurants going. As it turned out, that meant taking their business outside.

"We set up that grill," says Dean. "It's been really popular. "

So while it has been a though year overall, the unseasonably warm weather has increased foot traffic outside Cibe's restaurants, driving customers to their new outdoor bar and grill.

"With the nice weather we've had it's been extremely busy for March," says Nick.

And when it was time to rebuild, the brothers asked their waitstaff to help. Their demolition crew was comprised almost entirely of former waitstaff. They wanted to give them the opportunity to get back to work.

For example, bartender Rich Fowler traded in a swizzle stick for a sledge hammer: "I got to break a lot of things. Got to take frustrations out on the floors and the walls."

Now, Nick Cibel says, the brothers are getting ready to reopen the interior spaces at Tony and Joe's Seafood Place and Nick's Riverside Grill in the next four to six weeks.

Meanwhile, Fowler says he can add a new skill to his resume: "I can smash things a lot better. "

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