To watch City Lights Supper Club owner Tommy Bergan in his newly remodeled restaurant is to see a man in his element. As he walks around the bar to greet old friends and new guests, it is clear that hospitality is in his blood.
“My parents own the Taco John’s here in town, so that’s where I got my first start with restaurants,” said Bergan. “I went to school at UND and worked at Red Lobster and the Ground Round just kind of kept going with restaurant management through college.”
Bergan said he moved back to Valley City from Grand Forks specifically to run the restaurant, which he purchased from former owner Joe Lunde last September. “When the opportunity came up to purchase this place, I thought, ‘Perfect, I can be my own boss.’”
“He grew up in it,” said Bergan’s father Bob, “and we were always looking for the opportunity to get him home to help with everything else, so it worked out good.”
Tommy’s vision for remodeling the restaurant was to have a casual atmosphere on the bar side, while still keeping the fine dining the restaurant is known for.
A back room and bathroom were removed to make way for the bar, which serves as the centerpiece of the restaurant’s open floor plan. Booths and additional seating were added in the bar, and the front wall was also knocked down and expanded into the parking lot to provide extra space.
“That was my goal, to have it all open so it was more welcoming and inviting when you come in,” Bergan said.
“The one good thing was that during the construction, we never had to close,” Construction crews would work on Sundays and through the night, wrapping up just in time for the restaurant to open for dinner.
“It took us longer than we had planned, about three months, to get the whole project completed,” he said of the remodel. “We were hoping to have it done by the first of the year, and ended in late February. It was a bit of a nuisance trying to get all cleaned up, but now all the dust is gone so we don’t have to worry about that part.”
Throughout the sale and renovations, Bergan kept all the same staff and cooks, and strove to hold onto the spirit and tradition of City Lights.
Service manager Ashley Forster said of the transition, “I think we’re making some improvements that are going to benefit City Lights as a whole, and change can be good. Everybody’s been asking about the changes, and it’s been so gradual that it’s hard to take everything in unless you step back from it.”
While the dining area remains largely the same, return customers may not even recognize the bar area, which the Bergans think is a good thing.
“The goal was to have an Applebee’s-type feeling (in the bar,) and still have the fine dining over there,” said Bob Bergan. “We didn’t want to replace the fine dining, but just give people more of an option.”
This weekend marked the official unveiling of the new decor and bar menu items, and Tommy says he would eventually like to put a few finishing touches on the dining room as well.
“We just rolled out our new menu for the pub side, and we’re in the process of re-working our dinner menu, which we’ll come out with in the next few months. There are totally new menus for both concepts in the restaurant. We’ve got some fajitas and exciting new things that you can’t get anywhere else in Valley City.”