Amid buzz that two Connecticut restaurants closed less than a year after appearing on Gordon Ramsay's "24 Hours to Hell and Back," the owner of Vasi's Taverna in Waterbury is setting the record straight: There was no correlation between appearing on the show and closing down the restaurant.
"Because of the show…there were rumors that we had a failed business," Owner Vasilios Kaloidis said. "We were not a failing business; we were open for 18 years."
Kaloidis said he decided to close his restaurant/banquet hall after receiving an offer to be bought. That deal ended up falling through, but by that time, he had already told staff the restaurant was shutting down and had returned deposits to customers who booked it for events, he said. At this point he "just didn't have the heart to reopen." The space is currently up for sale.
The announcement of Vasi's closure was posted on Facebook on January 11, just days short of the one-year anniversary of the restaurant's "24 Hours to Hell and Back" episode, which aired January 16, 2019. Kaloidis noted the coincidence of Stone's Throw in Seymour also closing less than a year short of appearing on the very same show. Stone's Throw was not available for comment.
But Kaloidis said the two events are mutually exclusive. "We had the best holiday season we had had in years, and we wanted to end on a high note," he said.
As for the effect of the show on business, Kaloidis said business spiked for a couple months after the show aired but then went back to normal. Business also went back to normal in the sense that Kaloidis and his team reversed the changes Ramsay made. Whereas the show introduced a more Greek concept with fresh fish and Greek platters, Kaloidis found his customers wanted more Italian food, burgers and fries and wings.
“Basically, business concept given to us for the show was not the right concept for Waterbury. Waterbury is a working-class town with many good people in it," he said. "We did all the things [Ramsay said], but figured it out, and went back to the way it was before. And it was the customers who made that decision."
For now, Kaloidis said he will be focusing on family and his other restaurant, Spartan in Waterbury, which he co-owns with his mother. In a "year or two" he may consider opening another restaurant.
Kaloidis calls filming "24 Hours to Hell and Back" a learning experience.
In 2019, ahead of the show's airing, Kaloidis noted that the atmosphere was tense when Ramsay appeared. "That's when the staff was ready to quit and everything you see on TV started to happen. I had to do damage control and say 'it's one day,' and we all decided to do it," he said. At the time of filming, Kaloidis was thinking about becoming a strictly event-based banquet hall. He saw the show as a chance to boost business on the restaurant side.
His advice to any restaurant owner thinking about appearing on a reality show is to do the research before committing. And "if they have any questions, they can call me."