Mory’s: the end of an era?

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 has also laid off all staff — management included — save for controller Robin Soltesz, Getman said. Mory’s, which was founded in 1849, will be closed for at least two to three weeks, Getman said, though the closure could extend to the end of the academic semester or beyond. Asked whether the club will ever reopen, Getman said he is “optimistic.”

After a century as a Yale icon, Mory’s closed over winter break, citing financial difficulties.
Charles Francis
After a century as a Yale icon, Mory’s closed over winter break, citing financial difficulties.

Mory’s decision to close follows a series of economic hardships, Getman said. Over the next few months, the Yale-exclusive institution will rethink its operating policies and membership recruitment.

“We realized if we stayed opened we would be flat broke by the middle of January,” Getman said in December. “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 Dec. 19 press release attributed these losses to the higher operating costs “faced by virtually all restaurants” and the unfavorable economic climate. The News reported in September that Mory’s lost nearly $170,000 in 2006, just one indication of the club’s financial situation.

During the Mory’s closure, Getman said, the Board of Governors will focus on ways to make the club more appealing to students, such as reducing prices and hiring a new chef.

“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.”

The club will also investigate a renovation of its “aging facility,” as the press release put it.

Over the Christmas holiday Mory’s sent out 175 letters to members announcing the formation of “Friends of Mory’s,” a group intended to garner support for the organization. A second round of letters was sent out to the rest of the members in early January.

Included in the letter was a contribution card with membership levels ranging from $50 to over $5,000.

The initial response to the letter has been positive, Getman said.

“We’ve got some elephants out there,” he said. “Right now we’ve got a whole bunch of leads we are going to follow up soon.”

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 Yale presidents to eat, Smith said.

Smith blamed Mory’s recent hardships on the increased number of restaurants in the New Haven area and the “old-fashioned” food at the club.

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 raise student interest.

Blumenfeld’s efforts have included organizing the open house lunch at Mory’s on the same day as the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project fast. That event helped recruit 180 new members.

The closure does not mean that the efforts have failed, Blumenfeld added.

Peter Johnston ’09, who created the Facebook group “Bailout Mory’s Temple Bar,” said that Mory’s has become a “staid” establishment. Mory’s needs to transform to become more of a “watering hole for students,” Johnston said. (Johnston is a staff columnist for the News.)

“It became a little too formal over time for it to be relevant to students,” he said.

But Getman, who replaced Cheever Tyler ’59 as president of the Board of Governors, 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.

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