Stonehenge: Restaurant closed, inn remains open
After 71 years of business in Ridgefield, the future of the Stonehenge Inn and Restaurant is uncertain.
Jean Pierre Rudaz, Stonehenge’s general manager, told The Press this week that the inn is open “on a very limited basis” and that cooking in the restaurant ceased entirely June 30.
Despite Stonehenge’s website being down, Rudaz said that he books a handful of rooms at a reduced rate “just to a keep the lights on.”
The property’s most recent owner, Drew Friedman of Westport, died in February 2016.
Friedman, who also owned the Cobbs Mill Inn in Weston and Onion Alley in Westport, purchased the Stonehenge business in 2015. Cobbs Mill Inn has closed since his death.
“It’s an amazing spot, so much potential,” Rudaz told The Press Tuesday, Sept. 5, when asked about the business’ potential permanent closure.
Rudaz, who formerly owned La Colline Verte in Fairfield, took over as the general manager when Friedman bought the business. He said he ran the business side of things for Friedman, while head chef Bruno Crosnier took care of the menu.
Since then, Crosnier has left the business, and Stonehenge has had difficulty in attracting an investor because it requires several major renovations to reopen the restaurant.
Rudaz said that the sprinkler system needed repairs.
Another problem is the site’s supply of drinking water.
“We had to dig a new well,” Rudaz said.
Rudaz estimates the inn costs about $14,000 per month to maintain in its current state.
Additionally, the property has been tied up in probate court, as the estate of its late owner is still being settled.
Rudaz told The Press that he believes the property has left probate court, and can now be sold.
If it does sell and the new owner wants to maintain the Stonehenge name, then Rudaz said he’d like to stay on in his current position.
“I’d like to really be part of it and make it a success, because I know it can be done.”
He said that keeping the inn open has been difficult.
“People call me JP,” Rudaz said, “but I’m not JP Morgan.”
Stonehenge Inn first opened in 1946, The Press archives reveal, as the brainchild of World War II veteran Victor Gilbert, who envisioned the site as an English country inn.
After surviving the invasion of Normandy, Gilbert, a New York native, renovated the 1820s farmhouse he bought on the corner of what is now Stonehenge Road and Still Road.
He chose the name Stonehenge for the ancient monument in Salisbury, inspired by his time in England during the war.
In the 1960s, Stonehenge was the property of Albert Stockli, a Swiss-born restaurateur who left a prominent position as an executive chef in New York to buy the inn.
Under his direction, the restaurant gained a reputation for fine European cooking — in 1965, a prominent New York wine and food club, ‘Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin,’ chose Stonehenge to host their monthly meeting.
In 1988, the original inn burned down, after a fire of unknown origin started in the kitchen. According to the police report, staff members sleeping at the inn shimmied down a drainpipe to escape the flames, but by the time they were able to drive to a nearby home to call the fire department, most of the historic building was engulfed in flames.
The wood structure burned to the ground, while the remaining rooms suffered smoke damage. The Inn was later refurbished and reopened.
Stonehenge eventually ended up in the hands of Douglas Seville, who owned the property for 42 years before selling it to Friedman in 2015.