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Locals help the Virginian celebrate its 100th anniversary

The Virginian, the oldest restaurant in Charlottesville located on the Corner, celebrated its 100th anniversary on Saturday. Current and former University of Virginia students, former restaurant staff and local community members gathered for a glimpse of nostalgia.

The restaurant opened in 1923, and “exudes history, charm, and tradition,” according to a statement released by The Virginian. Along with experiencing its own major milestones, like a soda fountain transformation during prohibition and “going under during World War II,” the restaurant has also created milestones in many others’ lives.

“We are just celebrating all things Virginian,” Ross Johnson, general manager at The Virginian, told The Daily Progress.

Restaurant specials began at 11 a.m. All were welcome to join the celebration, and a warm “hello” was offered to guests who’ve shared fond memories at the restaurant and former staff. A photo booth and caricature artist were available to guests to create “keepsakes.”

“There are just so many special occasions that happen here,” Johnson said. “Birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, first dates.”

Many of those special occasions also included walking back to Grounds after a fun night out at The Virginian.

“Most of my memories of The Virginian are being drunk and walking up to my dorm,” James Wanner, former UVa student, said. “I liked a hamburger and a Guinness.”

Wanner went to UVa in the early 70s, he said.

“It’s changed a lot,” Wanner said. “I really like some of the changes, like it being much more diverse.”

Servers, bartenders and bussers dressed in roaring 20s fashion, wearing shimmery dresses, headdresses and white button-up shirts.

The restaurant’s booths filled quickly. Extended seating was offered outside, though some were waiting as long as 35 minutes to be seated.

“It’s been a very busy day,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a lot of old staff come back and former Virginian elites who are part of our loyalty program are coming back tonight.”

The celebration brought in guests from as far as North Carolina, who came to Charlottesville for Friday night’s UVa football game. The Cavaliers lost 24-21 to North Carolina State.

“I read this was a good place to stop,” Keli Jones said. “We were walking past and I saw it.”

This was Jones’ first time at The Virginian, she said. But it won’t be her last.

“The food was very good and the atmosphere is good,” Jones said.

Every hour on the hour, the restaurant conducted a raffle. Winners were awarded restaurant merchandise, including hats, t-shirts, flasks, mugs and shot glasses.

The restaurant ended its celebration with a DJ playing until 2 a.m., taking the restaurant “into the next 100 years.”

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Johnson said. “We are happy to be a part of the last hundred years and hopefully the next 100 years.”


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