Damn Yankees BBQ to close while owner recovers from lasting effects of COVID-19

  • Granby resident Richard Daviau, pictured in September 2019, first opened Damn Yankees BBQ on Elm Street in South Deerfield in November 2018. He announced this week that he will be closing the restaurant for an undetermined amount of time while he continues his recovery from the lasting effects of COVID-19. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/15/2020 12:47:17 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — The owner of Damn Yankees BBQ on Elm Street has announced he is closing the restaurant’s doors while he continues to recover from the lasting effects of COVID-19.

“Damn Yankees BBQ has been a passion of mine since a very young age and with all of your help my dreams were made into a reality,” owner Richard Daviau wrote in a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page this week. “But unfortunately it’s with the heaviest of heart I am announcing that I have to close the doors of the restaurant.”

When the doors close on Oct. 31, however, they won’t be closed for good, Daviau said; it’s more of a “see you later.”

“Once I recover, I’ll be back,” he said.

Daviau, who spent 80 days this summer at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield battling COVID-19, said the decision to close was related both to his ongoing recovery and the reality that the business is struggling financially.

“I’m thankful I’m alive,” he said. “I thank God every day, but it sucks to have something that you worked for just taken from you in an instant.”

Daviau said he expected the post-COVID-19 recovery process to take time. With some rehab and rest, he thought he’d “be right back to work.”

“Never did I expect anything like this to happen,” he said, noting that with the exception of a few visits, he hasn’t returned to work since April. “I get anxiety. … I get so aggravated because I can’t do things. It’s so frustrating.”

The Granby resident, who spent several weeks in rehab after leaving the hospital in July, said there are several aspects of the job he is still unable to do.

“I can’t lift all that many hundreds of pounds of meat,” he said. “I can’t stay up 20 hours a day like I used to. My stamina is nowhere near what it used to (be).”

He also has trouble breathing in the smoky kitchen, Daviau added.

Still, he said, he tries to look at the situation with a positive perspective.

“Every day, I’m getting stronger,” he said.

His hands, which are unable to make a fist or open all the way, need to undergo a few procedures — requiring at least eight weeks of recovery followed by six to eight weeks of occupational therapy.

“There’s no way I’m going to be able to hold a knife, hold a spatula, for a long time,” Daviau said.

Remaining open, he said, would be unfair to the two employees who have helped to keep the business afloat in his absence.

“Bills weren’t getting paid because (employees) have to get paid, and food has to be bought,” Daviau said.

He called it the “trickle down effect” of COVID-19.

“COVID didn’t just destroy businesses,” Daviau said. “It destroyed lives.”

The decision to close Damn Yankees BBQ — for an undetermined length of time — was one he said he “cried about, prayed about and talked about with family members.”

“This just seems to be the best,” he said. “Yeah, I may be out, but I’m not quitting. I didn’t fail. My business was thriving before this happened. I know I can get back to that.”

He acknowledged the support system that has rallied around him and the business, and he acknowledged his employees — who he considers to be family — for all they’ve done since he was first admitted to the hospital in April.

“Thank you for all the support,” Daviau said. “Thank you for keeping my business going while I was under. ... We’ll see you soon.”

A fundraiser for Daviau and his family is scheduled for Monday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Frontera Grill in Chicopee.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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