Tim's Rivershore: The recession can't stop this party
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- Tim Bauckman, owner of Tim's Rivershore. (Photo: Bonnie Wood/TBD | Date: Jun. 25, 2011)
In 2005, Tim Bauckman was sitting on a gold mine. Not Tim’s Rivershore, his restaurant in Dumfries, which had grown from a crab shack into a giant party spot at the mouth of the Occoquan Bay. Specifically, the land under the restaurant. It was the height of Washington’s real-estate boom, and Bauckman’s joint was inconveniently located where KSI Services intended to plop Harbor Station, a mixed-use development that comprised an office park, a retirement community, and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.
Tim’s was still reeling from Hurricane Isabel the year before, which left its deck and dock in need of much repair and rebuilding. Meanwhile, Bauckman quickly did all he could to fix the wreckage. Building permits? Ah, come on. It was, in his mind, just a lil’ ol’ crab shack.
As Marc Fisher wrote, “Suddenly. . .the county’s agents descended on Tim’s like locusts, and they were shocked – shocked – to find that the zoning wasn’t quite right and the parking was insufficient and the water lines didn’t meet code and the deck was structurally questionable and on and on – 16 county offices were involved – until Bauckman found himself shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to engineers and architects and lawyers and fixers, and even so, the county sealed off his deck and the outdoor party went silent. The game was up.”
Sharon Pandak, then the Prince Williams county attorney, told the Potomac News, “It would be unconscionable for a public entity to be aware of violations in permits, in parking, possible health issues and not do anything about it.”
Bauckman sold out. He cringes upon hearing the phrase but acknowledges it’s apt. He sold his restaurant and its land to KSI for approximately $1.5 million and the adjacent land for more. Under the agreement, he would run the place for a maximum of two years; he probably would have to shutter Tim’s doors for a new, swank establishment. KSI and its legal team would help him negotiate the permitting maze, and after that, all bets were off.
“It seemed to me like KSI and the county were teaming up, and it was kind of like a gang tackle,” Bauckman says. “But after a while, KSI kind of came full circle. Once they bought the place, they didn’t want it to go anywhere, and they kind of realized they’d been shooting themselves in the foot by thinking otherwise, so they started giving us buffers that we needed to appease the county. They finally recognized we’re a big draw, and they needed us.”
And then came the Great Recession. Harbor Station’s ownership entity, Lee Carolina LLC, technically defaulted on its loan. Liens and judgments piled up. KSI sold its piece of Harbor Station to Wachovia Bank, which in turn was absorbed by Wells Fargo, which Bauckman says told him to sit tight and keep on doing what’s he’s doing until further notice.
So far, that notice hasn’t come.
Tim’s Rivershore is at the bottom of a winding 2 1/2-mile road that snakes its way through a forest until ending at the railroad tracks, which customers sometimes have to warily step across to reach the joint. On its website, Tim’s advises customers arriving by car that construction can mess up their GPS directions. Customers arriving by air are asked to please land on the water.
The restaurant draws thousands of patrons. There are decks outside the relatively tiny restaurant, decks along the shore of the Potomac, a separate gazebo for special occasions, a sand box for the kiddies, and two long docks that greet a virtual flotilla on most weekends. Bands play, there’s a popular outside bar, and there’s a water taxi service for those who choose to hit Tim’s while leaving their boats on the river.
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