Open For Business In Atlantic City, Despite Storm

As Sandy barreled down on Atlantic City, N.J., the owner of the Ducktown Tavern defiantly stayed open, just like he did a year ago during Hurricane Irene.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In August last year, as Hurricane Irene threatened the East Coast, New Jersey's governor issued an evacuation order for Atlantic City. And WEEKEND EDITION was introduced to one restaurant owner who wasn't having any of it.

JOHN EXADAKTILOS: Choppy seas, little wind, little hazy. This is a bull (bleep) storm. Nothing's going to happen.

MARTIN: That was John Exadaktilos. He owns the Ducktown Tavern, a 24-hour grill that's seen its share of big storms. Exadaktilos has kept his bar open through Irene, and in the end he seemed vindicated. Flash forward to this year: as Superstorm Sandy churned toward New Jersey's coast, officials once again called for Atlantic City to shut down and for people to evacuate. And so this past week we checked back with John Exadaktilos.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)

MARTIN: This time, he says he could tell this storm was serious. Even so, he chose to keep the Ducktown Tavern open. And amazingly, besides some wind damage...

EXADAKTILOS: The tavern survived. You wouldn't even known the storm was going on.

MARTIN: It turns out that tavern was the one thing Exadaktilos could count on.

EXADAKTILOS: I got a warehouse - that got flooded with 30 inches of water. I got an apartment building on the boardwalk. That got about three feet. My house - destroyed.

MARTIN: When he finally got a chance to look around and survey the damage...

EXADAKTILOS: You see a 15-inch waterline around the perimeter of the house. I lost carpet, furniture, a boiler, a blower for my heater, a car that I only owned for about three weeks.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: He's tried to put all of that out of his mind for the time being and just focus on his business. The bar has been up and running all week. City officials and rescue workers filled the seats, looking for a short respite from the recovery effort.

EXADAKTILOS: It was a risk that I took. You know, it's my business, my livelihood. You know, you protect your property. My house, I can rebuild it. You know, but that business is what made Ducktown, Ducktown. You know, it's what it's done for myself and my family.

MARTIN: His family is safe. And about to welcome one more into the fold.

EXADAKTILOS: Fortunately, I have a wonderful fiancee who stood by my side and went to work as soon as I was able to get her into the city. And that was a true test of love, and that lady passed with flying colors. Just, you know, serving, bartending, working the liquor store, managerial, accounting - she did everything. I mean, I just got engaged seven, eight weeks ago today. She's a broken mold, I'll tell you that.

MARTIN: John Exadaktilos, owner of the Ducktown Tavern in Atlantic City.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) (Unintelligible) in this whole wide world. (unintelligible) Jersey (unintelligible)...

MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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