Buttered doughnut-burgers might soon be sizzling on the grill again, but a history of substantial debt could cause a hitch in plans for a new Yankee Doodle — despite an outpouring of support from the Yale community since the diner’s closing in January.
A progress report is expected next week from a group of about 10 former Yalies — led by Richard Nash Gould ‘68 ARC ‘72, a New York architect who worked on the “Tribute In Light” 9/11 memorial — who are raising money and putting together business plans for a possible Doodle 2. The group talks weekly on a conference call, and members have kept confidential the details of their efforts — including finding a new location — but Gould said the price tag of new real estate is the biggest obstacle to Doodle’s riding back into town.
Anton Orlich GRD ’07, an alumnus involved in the planning efforts, said the cost of staying in the original location is significantly lower than that of moving elsewhere.
“If the Doodle has to move because of Tyco, the cost is $300,000 to $350,000. The cost to keep the space workable and make sure it meets code is $50,000 to $100,000,” Orlich said. “You could pay the entire backrent, and it would still be more feasible to stay in the current location.”
Clarence Zachery ’89, director of finance for University Properties, said he has not heard anything about progress toward securing a new Doodle location since the University gave the Doodle options for possible new locations. The involved alumni are also considering other, non-University properties, and the selection of a site will begin once Gould has considered all of the potential offers, Zachery said.
“They are still doing their due diligence on a couple locations we proposed to them, and they are trying to see if they may or may not work for them,” Zachery said.
The working group has narrowed it down to less than five possible locations, a list which includes a University property, Orlich said.
Michael Iannuzzi, co-landlord of the former site of the Doodle the owner of next-door Tyco said his remaining discussions with Doodle owner Rick Beckwith are a purely financial — and thus private — matter. He has not yet negotiated a timeline with Beckwith for how and when the remaining debt will be repaid, Iannuzzi said. In a previous interview with the News in early February, Iannuzzi indicated the Doodle’s unpaid back rent and late fees totaled about $12,000.
But there is much more financial pressure on Beckwith than that resulting from his outstanding debt to Iannuzzi and John Parker, the other landlord.
Last July, Yale College lecturer and business consultant Thomas Weil ’70 loaned a “sizeable amount of money” to Beckwith after finding out the Doodle was in danger of foreclosure within 24 to 48 hours, Weil said.
“This last time … obviously wasn’t the first time that [the Doodle] had been close to extinction,” Weil said. “He did make a couple of payments on [the loan] … and then he just called me up and said, ‘I’m closing tomorrow, it’s been very hard to make it work.’ “
Thousands of current and former students have pledged to contribute money to the reopening of the iconic eatery, but Gould described these efforts — which have come largely through Web sites such as Facebook — as “irrelevant” compared to the steep price tag of the plans currently under consideration.
“The amount of money being involved is significantly larger than what people would chip in … That’s nickels and dimes,” Gould said. “There’s serious firepower exploring the feasibility of Doodle 2, [but] it could go either way.”
The current online fundraising efforts have yielded about $10,000, Orlich said.
“We knew all along that the Doodle wasn’t going to be saved with $10 donations, but that was an opportunity for students or those who just graduated, who have fewer means, to contribute,” Orlich said.
While those involved with planning the Doodle’s comeback refer to the new business plan as “Doodle 2,” it is not yet clear what the restaurant might be named if it reopens.