Mory’s will not reopen immediately after winter break and may shut its doors for good, said Christopher Getman ’64, the newly appointed president of Mory’s Board of Governors.
The iconic eating club’s decision to close follows a series of economic hardships, Getman said. Over the next few months, he said, the Yale-exclusive institution, founded in 1849, will rethink its operating policies and membership recruitment.
“Last week we realized if we stayed opened we would be flat broke by the middle of January,” Getman said. “So we decided to close so we could honor our obligations to vendors.”
Getman said revenues and the value of Mory’s endowment have declined “big time.” A Mory’s press release on Friday attributed these losses to higher operating costs “faced by virtually all restaurants” and the poor economic climate. The News reported in September that Mory’s lost nearly $170,000 in 2006, an indication of the club’s financial situation.
During the Mory’s closure, he said, the management team will focus on making the club more appealing to students. The club will also explore renovating its “aging facility,” as the press release put it.
“There is a perception that Mory’s is an elitist place, which it is not,” he said. “So we are going to try to get that message out to students the best way we can.”
Mory’s initially became successful by focusing its attention on undergraduates, Larned Professor Emeritus of History and Yale historian Gaddis Smith ’54 GRD ’61 said. When Mory’s first opened more than 150 years ago, the residential college system had not yet been implemented. It was an inexpensive place for students, faculty and even University presidents — such as A. Whitney Griswold and A. Bartlett Giamatti — to eat, Smith said.
Smith blamed Mory’s recent hardships on the increased number of restaurants in the New Haven area, the perception that New Haven is relatively unsafe at night and “old-fashioned” food. Plus, Smith added, Mory’s became less fashionable to students over time as Yale became a more diverse place.
“The club for all undergraduates doesn’t fit,” he said.
A Mory’s membership used to last for a lifetime, but the club recently amended its policy to include an annual fee for members. Smith said he paid the voluntary fee last summer.
Getman said new policies implemented in September — including later hours, a relaxed dress code and a “pub-style” menu — have helped the club expand its clientele. In November, 250 students signed up for Mory’s memberships, he said. Still, he added, the changes were not effective enough to keep the club solvent.
“It was just too little too late,” Getman said.
Steven Blumenfeld ’11, an associate director of the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, has been coordinating an initiative to help garner student interest in Mory’s. Blumenfeld said that he was approached by Yale political science and School of Management professor Douglas Rae, who is also on the Board of Governors at Mory’s, to head the initiative.
Blumenfeld’s efforts have included organizing the open house lunch at Mory’s on the same day as the YHAAP fast. That event helped recruit 180 new members. He also said he has been working to change Mory’s menu.
The closure does not mean that the efforts have failed, Blumenfeld added.
“Mory’s isn’t dead,” he said. “Perhaps the internal structure of Mory’s is going to change radically.”
Peter Johnston ’09, who created the Facebook group group “Bailout Mory’s Temple Bar,” said that Mory’s has become a “staid” establishment. Johnston told the News on Saturday he believes that Mory’s needs to transform to become more of a “watering hole for students.”
“It became a little too formal over time for it to be relevant to students,” he said.
Johnston said he is considering a march from Mory’s to Woodbridge Hall on Jan. 12 to encourage University President Richard Levin to bail out Mory’s.
“We have to use our funds to maintain the essentials of the Yale experience,” he said.
But Getman, who replaced Cheever Tyler as president of the Board of Governors this week, said he does not believe the University will help Mory’s.
If Mory’s cannot find a way to sustain itself, it will be forced to close for good, Getman said. Events that were planned to take place at Mory’s in the months following winter break will be canceled, he added.
Right now, Getman said, the club’s management is struggling to come up with ways to restore Mory’s to its former glory.
“We’re at a loss right now,” he said. “We are hoping maybe some alumni may step forward and give us a cushion to start again. But, who knows? We have tried that in the past and it hasn’t worked so far.”