The Village Restaurant, a mainstay of Litchfield’s business community, has adjusted the way it does business to keep afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. BZ photos
Owning and operating the Village Restaurant for more than two decades left Denise Raap and Dave Vigeant prepared to hurdle any obstacles placed in the way of the business, even one as extreme as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly one year into the plague, the Village is holding its own because of the ability of Raap, Litchfield’s first selectman, and Vigeant to adjust to the times by using every bit of experience they’ve gained as stewards of the iconic restaurant.
“Twenty years here and all of sudden we’re shut down,” Vigeant said in recalling the day last March when the business had to close temporarily because of the growing pandemic. “We’ve had to adapt, and we’ve been able to because we’ve been here so long that we know how to deal with all kinds of problems.”
Turning the driveway next to the restaurant into an outdoor dining area late last spring was one of the moves Raap and Vigeant employed to attract more customers with indoor dining capacity limited under the executive orders of Gov. Ned Lamont. Outdoor dining was popular well into the fall and is something Raap and Vigeant plan to bring back this spring provided it passes muster with the town’s land-use department.
Bar business, Vigeant said, has taken a severe hit, although it is one that is being buffered by an increase in takeout dining. In all, he said, the bar and dining business is down by about 25 percent.
“We’re doing all we can to get through it and survive until things get back to normal,” Vigeant said.
Raap reports that customers have expressed their loyalty by opening their checkbooks during the pandemic.
“People are sending us checks,” she said. “They’re telling us this is what we would have spent (at the restaurant). We are very fortunate to have great support from our customers.”
Reducing staff coverage by the equivalent of one person per shift, tightening food and alcohol ordering procedures, downsizing the menu, and closing the restaurant on Mondays and Tuesdays are other steps Raap and Vigeant have taken to sustain the business. They’ve been creative too, adding a Wednesday evening special featuring a half-price glass of wine or a half-price bottle of wine with every meal.
“We’re just trying to survive like everyone else,” Raap said. “As more people get vaccinated, I see things turning around and I think it will make for a very busy summer.”
Longtime Village Restaurant supporter Steve Sage, above, of Litchfield, enjoyed a beer at the bar on Friday. Below, John and Cindy Kilbourn of Morris stopped in for drinks and food.