After a dry spell of more than three years, Naples’ Pizza and Restaurant plans to reapply for its liquor license by the end of this month.
Formerly the Thursday-night hotspot for Yalies, Naples lost its liquor license in December 2001 after failing to pay a fine for serving alcohol to patrons who were under the age of 21. The restaurant lost a significant amount of nightly business as a result, and owner Rose Prifitera said she hopes her reapplication will be a chance to bring it back.
“We hardly have any students come in at night anymore,” Prifitera said. “And I would assume that whether your are 18 or 21, you want to be where the crowds are.”
Adam Mayer ’98, who regularly frequented Naples when he was at Yale, said he thinks the “herd effect” was the reason Naples was so popular on Thursday nights, especially among freshmen and sophomores. He said although Thursday nights were by far the busiest Naples was just as likely to be crowded on Friday or Saturday as well.
“When alcohol was allowed, it was a madhouse all weekend,” Mayer said. “Packed with students — it sometimes took 10 minutes to get from one side of the room to the other.”
Even if Naples does regain its liquor license, it will follow far stricter regulations than it did during Mayer’s time at Yale, Preifitera said. Beer will only be served in the back room of the restaurant, and only patrons with valid identification, in addition to their drivers’ licenses, will be allowed in the room.
Prifitera admitted it is a strict policy, but she thinks this is the only way to avoid serving alcohol to underage students with fake IDs. She said she was very disappointed in how many minors took advantage of her business, and now students will have to take responsibility for themselves.
“It’s a pizza place, not a bar, so it’s a difficult situation,” Prifitera said. “We can’t have someone weeding people out at the door, so the best solution is to designate a single room and take it from there.”
Only Yale seniors remember when alcohol was served at Naples. When he visited campus on Bulldog Days, the first place Michael McDaniel’s ’05 host brought him to give him a sense of the social scene was Naples. But McDaniel only got to enjoy the scene for the first few weeks of his freshman year before the Liquor Control Commission suspended the restaurant’s alcohol license and the Thursday night scene moved elsewhere immediately.
“The reason it was so fun was because it was pretty easy on carding, so you’d get a big crowd of underclassmen that otherwise wouldn’t frequent the bar scene,” McDaniel said.
But McDaniel said he doubts Naples can regain its crowd on Thursday nights if they are strict about identification.
“For the seniors who remembered Naples Thursday nights, they will probably go back for nostalgia, but it will never be the same,” McDaniel said.
Mayer said he agrees with McDaniel, because the over-21 crowd can go to any bar in New Haven, so there would be no pressing reason to go to Naples.
“If they check ID’s, Naples will definitely not be as popular,” Mayer said. “In fact, my senior year, they cracked down on underage drinking for a while, and the place was nearly empty at night.”
But Prifitera said her decision to reapply for a liquor license was not based solely on regaining a base of Yale students. She said they used to attract a crowd before concerts at Toad’s Place, as well as adults who would like to have a drink with dinner.
“Beer and pizza go together, and people from all ages enjoy that,” Prifitera said.