SIDE DOOR JAZZ CLUB AND INN REMAIN FULLY OPERATIONAL WHILE RESTAURANT OPERATIONS ARE RECONFIGURED
Almost on a whim, Ken and Chris Kitchings purchased the long-neglected Old Lyme Inn in 2011 and then spent a full year renovating the exterior of the main building while also updating and upgrading all systems and décor. In April of 2012, they opened the restaurant and eight of the 13 rooms and the following year, they opened the remaining five rooms and The Side Door jazz club.
The property is significant covering almost two acres and, apart from the elegant rooms and the extremely popular jazz club, it also features a variety of dining areas. These include a beautiful patio shaded by a large maple tree (40 seats), a bar room (38 seats), a main dining room primarily used for special events (60+ seats) and a small private room (18 seats).
The Side Door is a 75-seat intimate space that includes a full-service bar and showcases world-class jazz musicians every Friday and Saturday night. Having rapidly established a national reputation, it was a tremendous honor when Downbeat magazine recognized the club in February 2016 as one of the premier jazz clubs in the world.
The Inn enjoys a prime location moments away from the foot of the I-95 Exit 70 off-ramp, placing it exactly two hours from both Boston and New York. The 13 guest rooms are sold out most weekends with wedding guests in the warm months and attendees of The Side Door jazz club during the remaining months.
With the club, restaurant and guest rooms — not to mention the outstanding central location — there is unquestionably vast potential in the property. Moreover, the Inn is located directly across the street from the Florence Griswold Museum, which is recognized as the birthplace of American Impressionism.
This past August Ken and Chris were obliged to curtail restaurant service due to a lack of kitchen staff. Both The Side Door and the Inn remain fully operational — special events are being executed as planned, utilizing a skeleton crew of loyal staff.
Chris notes, “Ceasing normal restaurant operations was a very difficult but very necessary decision.” She comments, “‘Google’ chef shortage and you will see that Connecticut and Southern New England are not alone in the current chef shortage dilemma. Restaurants here and abroad are experiencing difficulty in staffing their kitchens.”
Explaining how she and Ken are hoping to resolve the current situation, Chris says, “We are actively looking for a chef/general manager to take over management of the property. This could be an ideal opportunity for a chef/ manager from New York, Boston or any metropolitan area who would like to establish him or herself (with family) in a wonderful small community.”
But what makes this a unique opportunity for the right person is the “package” that Chris and Ken are offering. Ken notes, “We are open to suggestions and creative concepts for utilizing this beautiful property. Ultimately, the Old Lyme Inn might become an establishment that is more than a restaurant and inn. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination.”
He concludes, “Our goal remains the same as when we purchased the property — to utilize and operate the entire property to the benefit of the community. We would like to think that the opportunity and support we can offer someone who is willing to work hard is greater than if they were to start a hospitality business from scratch on their own.”