Yale: Alumni not seeking University property for new Doodle

If the Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop comes back to town, it seems it will not be in a University Properties location.

Despite comments made in the New Haven Register last week, the half a dozen or so alumni still working to reopen the beloved New Haven institution are not currently seeking Yale-owned space, University Properties Director of Finance Clarence Zachery said. In fact, University Properties Director Abigail Rider said she has “no information on any plans for the Yankee Doodle.”

But last Wednesday, Phillip McKee ’94, who is leading the effort to reopen the Doodle, told the Register that the restaurant’s new location — a Yale-owned property close to the original Elm Street site — had been “picked out” and was “still readily available.”

In response to the statement made by University Properties that such a deal was not in the works, McKee said the group is in talks with many landlords and that he could not discuss further details of their negotiations. The Doodle, he insists, will eventually reopen for business.

But, apparently, not all alumni agree.

In April, six wealthy Yale graduates — led by New York-based architect Richard Nash Gould ’68 ARC ’72 — abandoned the reopening effort, citing Doodle owner Rick Beckwith’s “disastrous” financial situation. And McKee’s existing project, he said, will likely not result in a successful restaurant, regardless of whether it has a revised business plan with longer hours and additional seating as planned.

“I think they’re going to fail,” Gould said in an interview last week. “I think they’re pursuing a fantasy.”

Even when Gould and his cohorts were involved in the effort, though, their discussions with University Properties never made it past the initial stages, Zachery said.

“There were no negotiations,” he said. “We said we would need to know what [type of space they] needed, [but] we did not get that information.”

Gould declined to comment further on his reasons for giving up on the project.

According to McKee, Gould and the others sought to limit Beckwith’s ownership and management. Those who stayed on hoped to involve Beckwith in both the new restaurant’s ownership and management, he said.

“It was a difference between looking at this as only a business matter, and looking at this as a business matter and a family matter,” McKee said.

Still, McKee, who is optimistic about the restaurant’s prospects, said the current market rates will allow for a larger space and superior lease agreement than the Doodle originally had available.

“You’re looking at properties that are 3 to 4 times the size of [the Doodle’s] original space but cost the same monthly amount,” he said.

By increasing the space without increasing the cost of rent, McKee said it will be financially viable to keep the Doodle open later hours than before. Recently, the Doodle had been open less than nine hours a day, shutting its doors at 2:30 p.m. McKee added that Beckwith is supportive of the prospective changes.

“We’ve continued to receive alumni support throughout,” he said. “The Doodle’s too strong in too many people’s hearts.”

Citing “economic concerns,” Doodle closed its doors in February after 57 years of business.

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