The latest move in the strategic game of chess between Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop owner Rick Beckwith and Tyco owner Mike Iannuzzi seems to have resulted in a stalemate.
Less than 48 hours after Iannuzzi, the co-landlord of Doodle’s 240-square-feet space, announced it would provide a two-month grace period for the restaurant to reopen, he has reneged the offer, citing irreconcilable differences and Beckwith’s public criticism of Tyco’s efforts.
“Any and all of our attempts to help the Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop were always done with the best intentions in mind,” Iannuzzi wrote in an e-mail Wednesday night. “But … there is no more that we can do, or will do, over the next two months. As a result, it is best for us to part ways at this time and we wish Rick the very best in the future.”
Late Thursday night, Beckwith shot back in his most strongly worded statement yet, referring to “Tyco’s harsh conditions.”
“For years Tyco has refused to offer a reasonable lease,” he wrote. “If it really cared about saving the Doodle, Tyco would focus on that, because it’s something only it can do to protect the Doodle’s historic location. Tyco won’t even discuss changing the lease’s above-market rent, illegalities and draconian provisions.”
According to organizers of the “Save the Doodle” effort, the central issue behind the recent fallout was a disagreement about the rent and lease contract. But from Tyco’s perspective, the Doodle’s response to the two-month grace period clearly indicated Beckwith’s inflexibility in resolving the financial and business issues at hand.
During interviews with the News both before and after his retraction of the two-month offer, Iannuzzi said any demands levied on him by Beckwith — including those related to changing the lease agreement — were inappropriate and unnecessary.
“I had given them two months, and the immediate reaction was a negative response, as well as putting demands on me,” Iannuzzi said. “Once that was done, it told me we weren’t going to go anywhere with this, and to continue the bickering and all … it was time to end it at that point.”
All hope is not lost for butterbun lovers — Tyco could change its mind once more and, if that falls through, Bruce Alexander, Vice President of Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs, offered the University’s help in finding a new location — but Doodle doubters are raising another question altogether: whether Beckwith wants to carry on at all.
Three days after the Doodle closed, Iannuzzi sent Phillip McKee ’94, a personal friend of the Beckwiths, a message in which he outlined his view on the reasons for the Doodle’s downfall. Iannuzzi listed several questions he thought were more relevant to the Doodle’s closing than the issue of high rent rates. Among them, he asked what Beckwith’s personal reasons might have been for closing the Doodle, suggesting that Beckwith had been considering selling the Doodle to another owner.
“Within the past year, he was entertaining the thought,” Iannuzzi said. “He had indicated that he would look to sell it, I think if he had the opportunity. It could have just been talk … but it was certainly conversation.”
And three months before the Doodle’s closing in October, the News has learned, Katherine Wells ’08 wrote a profile of the Doodle and Beckwith’s role as its proprietor for a class. From her research, Wells said it seemed like the Doodle was becoming a financial struggle for Beckwith to keep open.
“He said that he would never want [his kids] to take over the business, and he didn’t think he was going to pass it on to anyone else,” Wells said. “Either he was going to make it work, or he was going to close it.”
But in an interview, Beckwith pushed back with a clarification.
“I never wanted to close the restaurant,” he said. “They might have come to that assumption, probably based on my body language or what have you. … Leading up to the time when it did close, it was very, very difficult … [but] I wouldn’t be up literally 18 to 20 hours a day answering e-mails, talking to people, if I didn’t want to do this.”
He said that if his children wished to continue the Doodle tradition in the family, they would be able to do so. But, he said, he had no intention of forcing the burden on their shoulders.
Iannuzzi predicts Tyco will likely expand into the Doodle space once the dust has settled from the current situation. But even while the 1950s relic searches for a new home and continues its fundraising efforts, there are still a few skeletons in the closet left to be taken care of: roughly $12,000 in debt — including accumulated back-rent and late fees — remain for the Doodle to pay off or otherwise settle with Tyco.