Coronavirus precautions hurting local restaurants

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Photo by Caroline Strapp

Deep Roots has installed curb side pickup parking signs and put up instructional flyers on their doors.

Update May 18, 2020: 

Verdura Tapas & Wine Bar will be opening for take-out starting Thursday, May 21 and will be open Tuesdays-Thursdays 3:30-8:30 and Fridays & Saturdays 3:30-9:30. 

@ The Barn is now open in its own location and the patio will be opening for take out service starting May 20. La Figata & Han are resuming take out operations as normal.

The Covid-19 virus is having a damaging effect on restaurants in Granby, forcing closures and lay-offs such as James Chen is facing at his popular establishments including Han Asian Cuisine and La Figata. 

For many years Granby residents travelled outside of town to find places to dine, but since the establishment of several new restaurants in the last few years this has changed significantly. With the opening of 10 new restaurants, Granby residents have been able to enjoy culinary choices similar to their neighbors right here in town. This is exemplified at Deep Roots Street Food, which offers a rotation of local chefs. Several other culinary additions to the community come from entrepreneur James Chen. Over the past five years he has opened Han Asian Cuisine, @ The Barn, La Figata and most recently, Verdura Tapas and Wine Bar. Each of these restaurants had been very successful until the impacts of the Coronavirus.

Although Granby has a couple of long-time favorites like New England Pizza, a beloved family-owned pizzeria, many of the town’s favorites have only existed for five years or less. Stay-at-home orders issued by state and national governments have had a huge negative financial impact on the food industry. According to the Wall Street Journal, billions of dollars have been lost since restaurants have been forced to close or limit their services in government efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

On March 16, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont put out an Executive Order, which stated “restaurants [were to stop] all service except food and non-alcoholic beverage takeout and delivery.” Since then restaurants across the state have been forced to adapt to these new restrictions in order to keep their doors open.

For Chen, this means making difficult decisions about employees and which restaurants can continue to operate. In a phone interview, Chen commented on the financial impact saying, “it’s tough” and that he has made many hard business decisions. Chen said “we have a lot of employees laid off, servers, bus boys, hostesses” anyone who worked on the floor. While the transition to curbside pickup has gone smoothly for some of his restaurants, others didn’t make the cut. Chen said he has chosen to close his newest restaurant, Verdura Tapas, because this restaurant does not serve “the type of food for takeout” and he had to choose where to “save costs.” 

In another move to cut costs Chen has moved @The Barn to an exclusively-online menu and consolidated its takeout operations with those of La Figata. Chen said, “I believe this is going to be longer than a couple of weeks, so I have prepared for longer.”

Much of the community has welcomed the switch to curbside pickup and delivery as evidenced by a poll on the Granby community Facebook page. Of 205 respondents only 11 percent said they have chosen not to order out because of the virus. The poll shows Chen is doing well with the adjustments, as his restaurants make up 56 percent of local take out. Chen’s long-term preparations are working well. Community engagement remains strong in Granby, and as a result so are its favorite restaurants.