Toad’s croaks for summer, senior week

As graduating seniors prepare for Commencement festivities, their favorite New Haven nightclub is getting ready to close its doors for the summer.

Toad’s Place — which hosts a variety of concerts as well as its notorious Wednesday and Saturday night dance parties — will close on May 6 for 90 days as part of an agreement reached with the Connecticut Liquor Control Commission. The settlement followed a police raid in Nov. 2005 that found 87 underage patrons in possession of alcohol. While the 90-day closure will not affect most students, who will be away for the summer, local concertgoers and businesses said they are afraid the local area will be much less lively over the next three months.

The Palace Theater will serve as an additional venue for local nightclub Toad’s Place, which is closing for 90 days following an investigation.
Esther Quintana
The Palace Theater will serve as an additional venue for local nightclub Toad’s Place, which is closing for 90 days following an investigation.

Toad’s owner Brian Phelps said the closure will not impact the club’s concert schedule, which was arranged to accommodate it. But he said he is sorry the club will be closed for senior week.

“I was trying to get [the shutdown time] for June or after, but [the LCC] did not want to do it,” he said. “At least we were open for most of the school year.”

Phelps said Toad’s will reopen on August 4 with a concert by Badfish, a Sublime cover band.

This is not the first time that the nightclub has been cited for underage drinking uncovered during similar inspections. In September 2001, Toad’s was fined $25,000 and forced to shut down for one week after the commission cited it for 12 specific violations of Connecticut liquor statutes.

Seniors said that while they are sad they will not be able to experience the Toad’s dance floor one last time during senior week, there will be other parties organized to compensate for it.

“I think there are plenty of senior events planned that will sufficient to cover the void left by the closing of Toad’s,” Christian Blum ’07 said.

But Sarah Wheeler ’07, who ventures to Toad’s on most Saturdays, said there will be many disappointed seniors walking past an empty Toad’s during senior week.

“A lot of people are going to be pretty bummed that Toads is closing during senior week because it’s an easy place to go, drink and see people,” she said.

The loss of Toad’s will likely worsen the usual summer slump for Broadway area businesses when their student clientele departs. Amy, who works as a waitress at Yorkside Pizza and declined to give her last name, said she expects the Toad’s closure will significantly lower business at the restaurant, as the two groups that are the restaurant’s primary patrons — college students and Toad’s-goers — will both be gone.

While Toad’s sleeps during the summer, Phelps said, he will be busy working on preparing two new Toad’s Place clubs in Richmond, Va., and Trenton, N.J. The club in Richmond — which has been franchised to Charlie Joyner ’88, a heart surgeon — will open on June 28 with a Squirrel Nut Zippers concert, he said. The Toad’s Place in Trenton is expected to open sometime in early 2008.

The original Toad’s Place in New Haven, whose name was chosen because the original owners thought it had French connotations, was first opened in 1975 as a restaurant, Phelps said, and it became a nightclub a year later. Phelps bought Toad’s in January 1995.

“It was supposed to be a French restaurant,” he said. “They thought [Toad’s] sounded somewhat French.”

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