Thirsty Turtle closed last night after stabbing, repeated violations

The long line was no more yesterday at the Thirsty Turtle. (Photo: Samuel Corum)

Correction:

An earlier version of this story misidentified the man charged in relation to the stabbing. He is Leonardo Alonso Ramos. TBD apologizes for the error.

There will be no memorial for the Thirsty Turtle.

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Long story short

The short, brilliant life of the Thirsty Turtle

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Last night, it was closed, a victim of the rollicking culture it had nurtured. In a letter Wednesday morning to the Prince George’s County Board of License Commissioners, owner Alan Wanuck voluntarily surrendered Turtle’s liquor license, choosing to forgo an appeal of a board action last week to kill the license. Turtle had served its last underage customer.

The impact was visible from the busy Route 1 corridor on Wednesday night. Where students once queued up to swarm the bar's taps, the sidewalk was empty. Inside, a Miller Lite lamp was still on, but the chairs were stacked on top of tables, and one employee walked back and forth, speaking on a cell phone. As of 7 p.m., none of the thousands of University of Maryland students who had patronized the bar had left behind a tribute to the joint.

Instead, as college students these days are wont to do, they tagged and categorized their nostalgia on Facebook. On Turtle’s own fan page, one stood out:

“i got 2 hook ups in the same night at turtle my first time ever going there...and then they were my first 2 of many random hook ups there...i will miss you turtle.”


 

In the beginning, there were the Greek letters.

If you walked into The Thirsty Turtle on its opening day — Dec. 3, 2007 — and walked upstairs, you saw them plastered on the walls. The university’s fraternities and sororities were represented, their three-letter codes emblazoned on the walls of College Park’s newest (and largest) bar.

To the roughly 10 percent of the University of Maryland’s student body who were in fraternities or sororities, this was awesome. To their national chapters — the adults in the room — this was a problem.

By January, four national Greek organizations had asked Turtle (There’s no “the.” It’s just “Turtle.”) to take down the letters, afraid that they would imply support for drinking. Wanuck acceded. 

"We were trying to do something nice for the Greeks on campus," Wanuck told the campus’ daily student newspaper, the Diamondback, at the time. "It was just a nice gesture... I'm not about to jeopardize my business for a nice gesture."


 

Turtle, located at 7416 Baltimore Ave., didn’t make it to its third birthday. It closed Wednesday, less than a month short. It’s odd to think of a such short-lived business as leaving a legacy, but Turtle did. It's a complicated one, too: For some Maryland students, it became a mecca. Others considered it a bar of last resort, a place so disgusting nothing could drag them there. For adults, Turtle was a nuisance.

The students who loved Turtle went there to fulfill their God-given right as college students — to get irresponsibly drunk and make the types of poor decisions irresponsibly drunk people make. Via cheap drinks and an anything-goes vibe, Turtle served up the fun, stupid part of the college experience. The objective behind a visit to Turtle was to get drunk, laid, or both. Providing a place to do that was the essence of Turtle's appeal.

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