WALLINGFORD — After closing temporarily in response to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions in the spring, a popular North Main Street restaurant announced on its Facebook page this week that it won’t be reopening.
J. Christian’s, which opened in 2011 in the historic former First National Bank building at 9 N. North Main St., announced the “sad news” in a Facebook post Monday.
The same post also mentioned a “Plan B” in the works “to continue some of the great dishes the talented Chef Jonathan (Harris) brought to Wallingford,” but details of those plans were not clear.
“The decision to close was based on the current environment,” owner Christian Rao said in a separate statement to the Record-Journal. “I just kept running the numbers and different scenarios and the outcome never was positive.”
To be able to pay rent he said he’d need more capacity than was allowed, and didn’t want to jeopardize his second restaurant, Cafe Ra at 350 Center St, by trying to keep both open.
“I appreciate the years of support and enjoyed being part of a wonderful downtown community,” Rao said.
The Facebook post states that gift cards for J. Christian’s can be redeemed at Cafe Ra. Rao said he’s thankful for the “wonderful customers and staff” as Cafe Ra has remained open since the pandemic began.
Wallingford Economic Development Specialist Tim Ryan said he’s sorry to hear the restaurant is not reopening, but that he believes the owner made the decision based on what he needs to do.
“J. Christian’s is a fine dining restaurant in our town center and has been one of the restaurants responsible for Wallingford’s town center being a destination for dining,” he said.
Ryan said the closing presents an opportunity for someone to find a creative way to use the space.
Rao said he was hopeful another business could benefit from extensive restoration to the building’s interior.
“The interior of the building took three years to restore with help of family and friends,” Rao said. “So I wish someone will take advantage of this beautiful interior and location and keep its majestic beauty.”
Building owner Rick Termini of Wallingford said he was very sorry to learn of Rao’s decision to close the restaurant, but that he was optimistic about finding another tenant.
“I know how hard it is to operate a business in normal circumstances, never mind in a limited environment,” Termini said. “The restaurant industry has been hit hard with many restrictions, limited seating etc. with no signs of normal in sight. I am looking forward to leasing this great building and location. Wallingford is a great town and I am optimistic it will bounce back better than ever.”
The building used to house the Wallingford Electric Division, as well as the Book Vault bookstore.
Asked what kind of commercial tenant he was hoping for to replace J. Christian’s, Termini said “we’re going into this with open minds.”