The Day – Taking Care of Business: New signs of life abound at the former Yantic River Inn

When Martha Lawton took down the outside indicators of the previous Yantic River Inn earlier this yr, she says she obtained many inquiries about what was occurring on the West City Avenue location.

The restaurant, as soon as a preferred eating spot particularly amongst older residents, had closed on the finish of June 2019, after what Lawton says was a downturn in enterprise.

As a substitute has arisen Celebrations at River’s Bend. The occasion venue hosts weddings, bridal and child showers, post-funeral gatherings, and different comparable features.

Lawton is Celebrations’ common supervisor, with about 45 years within the restaurant enterprise. She says the brand new enterprise’s title is sensible, since administration “needed to maintain the river title, but let individuals understand it was not the Yantic River Inn. There’s a bend within the close by river, and celebrations are what we’re selling.”

Lawton grew up in close by Scotland. She has been within the restaurant enterprise since her college days, finally working a restaurant on Newbury Avenue in Boston, when she determined to maneuver again to the Norwich space.

On the time, she thought “I’d by no means be within the restaurant enterprise once more, however right here I’m.” She says a mutual buddy advised her to use for a bookkeeping job on the Yantic River Inn, which had just lately been bought by businessman Franklin Grussy. Lawton’s earlier restaurant expertise led to her having a bigger function within the enterprise, and she or he was basically the G.M. when Grussy’s newly renovated Yantic River Inn opened in February 2012.

Sadly, enterprise wasn’t good, Lawton stated. She says Grussy’s determination to maintain the Yantic title “may’ve been our downfall, because the restaurant’s status had suffered beneath earlier homeowners” who had let the place get run down.

Says Grussy: “I believed at first there could be numerous goodwill related to the Yantic River Inn title, however numerous these former loyal prospects had handed on. Plus, society’s tastes had modified.”

Lawton says the restaurant “simply wasn’t worthwhile.” Efforts to herald dinner theatre, comedy nights, and different leisure weren’t profitable.

Lawton says a part of the issue was that prospects weren’t wanting to drop some coin, together with cowl expenses.

“We gave it our all, it simply wasn’t the best match,” stated Lawton.

Grussy and Lawton say at first they didn’t know what to do with the constructing when the restaurant closed.

“The day-to-day restaurant enterprise had turn out to be too pricey, with too many uncertainties,” stated Lawton.

Step in Norwich-based occasion planner Debby White Palmer, who proposed turning the enterprise into an occasions heart.

“She’s been instrumental within the course we’ve been getting in,” stated Lawton. “She’s been terrific.”

Lawton says they started reserving small occasions in June, beneath COVID-19 restrictions. “There’s been an excellent response. We’re now fielding two to a few e-mails and telephone calls per day, which is nice contemplating the present financial local weather. We’re already reserving into subsequent yr.”

Celebrations at River’s Finish doesn’t have a kitchen employees. Folks wishing to e book the power and have meals served can usher in their very own caterer, or select one from a listing supplied by Lawton.

Anybody wishing to make use of the constructing’s kitchen amenities can accomplish that, for an extra charge, and a signed waiver.

“If I don’t must take care of the meals, and so they have a caterer, which pays me to make use of my kitchen and fridge, then it’s a win-win,” stated Lawton. The power does provide a full bar and bartending service.

Celebrations is presently restricted to 100 individuals for indoor occasions beneath state COVID-19 laws, however bigger gatherings have been held exterior. Regular indoor capability for the constructing is 200.

Lawton says many of the occasions which have taken place to this point are child and bridal showers. She says the location is particularly suited to small weddings, noting the ceremony may be held outdoor, with the reception both inside or out.

“This appears to be working fairly properly,” says Grussy. “Operating a restaurant is a grueling enterprise. That is one thing completely different, one thing exterior the field.”

“I’m happy. It’s uplifting,” agrees Lawton. “It provides me an entire new outlook on working.”

For extra data, name Celebrations at River’s Bend at (860) 887-4300.

Kevin Gorden lives in Norwich.

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