Will The Wharf dismantle the nation's oldest fish market?

Thursday is the grand opening of The Wharf-the massive entertainment development on DC's Southwest Waterfront. But will the wharf dismantle DC's fish market?

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Where can you find piles of just-caught Chesapeake Bay blue crabs? Or practically any kind of fresh local fish?  

Seafood lovers have been coming to D.C.'s fish market for more than 200 years, since 1805. It's considered the oldest, continuously operating open air fish market in the nation.

"I come here for steamed oysters and fresh fish. It's wonderful," said Sandy Perkinson from Raleigh, North Carolina.

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But Billy and Penny White are worried about their livelihood and way of life. They own the majority of businesses at the fish market including Captain White's and The Wharf Cooked Seafood. They  fear they're being pushed out by the huge new development The Wharf which opens on Thursday.

"And we've built a thriving fish market here. After 47 years. And now we have people that want to take it away from us," said Billy White.

He says the developers tried to evict him. Now the Whites are suing claiming the developers are not honoring their lease, which was transferred to them from the D.C. government. 

"Here's my entrance. You want to see the entrance of this business, this is what they give us," White points to a broken sidewalk surrounded by a chain link fence and orange construction barrels.

The lease says the Whites have say-so on what happens to this common area, which developers took to build a building for garbage. One hundred parking a spaces use to be there.

"This use to be all parking. Every bit of this use to be parking right there. That's a big building to have two dumpsters in," said White. 

White had built a refrigerated building for garbage (dead fish smells!) but the developers tore it down.

"The new garbage building is air conditioned, not refrigerated," said White. "It's gonna stink and attract rodents."

The Wharf developers say they are preserving the fish market and have allowed access for cheaper spaces for fish market customers  in their garage. Validated tickets will cost just $2, but that price is only good for under one hour.

Two hours to park cost WUSA9's Peggy Fox $22.    

Billy White says the garage parking is too expensive and there aren't enough spots. And seafood buyers are not going to take Metro. 

"Can't bring a bushel of crabs on Metro," said White.

Parking is not the only thing the developers have taken from what is now called "The Municipal Seafood Market." 

They also took the name The Wharf, which is what locals have called the fish market for decades.

But not everybody thinks customers will stay away. 

Seafood lover David Cooper did pay to park to get some lunch: "People really love their food. They're going to keep coming, even if they have to pay to park in a garage."

The other business owner at the market, Jesse Taylor, is not part of the lawsuit. Two of his employees said they believe the development will be good for business and will bring in a lot more customers.  

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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