Every Monday evening, one could walk into Mory’s and hear the Whiffenpoofs singing. Another all-male a cappella group, the Society of Orpheus and Bacchus, would croon on Tuesdays. Every other Wednesday, the female seniors in Whim ‘n Rhythm would reach a higher pitch. And on Fridays, the Yale Political Union parties would sip on the Baker’s Soup.
But since December, the halls of Mory’s have been silent and empty as the club regroups from financial difficulties. And many Yale organizations — both young and old — can no longer walk down York Street to eat, sing or drink out of the club’s famed toasting cups. Without a central location to hold meetings, many groups have resorted to other locations off-campus, including local restaurants, to simulate the experience of Mory’s.
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“You could expose a guest of the Union to the very iconic Yale experience,” YPU President David Manners-Weber ’10 said of Mory’s. “It’s difficult to imitate that at another New Haven restaurant.”
Christopher Getman ’64, the president of the Mory’s board of governors, said the club hopes to reopen at the beginning of the fall semester. But in the meantime, the closure of the 160-year-old institution has broken up the routines of many extra-curricular organizations — and perhaps the spirit of their bright college years.
‘TO THE TABLES DOWN AT MORY’S’
The famed eating-club and the Whiffenpoofs are interconnected, the singing group’s sweater-clad business manager James Warlick ’12 said over coffee Thursday morning in the Thain Family Café. Now, as the Whiffenpoofs turn 100, the place mentioned in their eponymous songs is taking a hiatus — much to the singing group’s despair.
“It’s sort of sad to think that Mory’s closed three weeks before the Whiffenpoofs turned 100,” Warlick said.
But Yale’s a cappella groups have not been rendered wholly homeless. Steven Blumenfeld ’11, who is a member of Mory’s Business Operating Group (a subset of the Mory’s board of governors), organized a meeting on Jan. 23 with Getman and the business managers of Yale a cappella groups to pitch alternate locations for concerts.
“We want the singing groups to maintain their traditions, while keeping Mory’s alive at the same time,” Blumenfeld said.
During the meeting the business managers started throwing out ideas about “virtual” Mory’s events, a term Blumenfeld likes to use a lot. Virtual Mory’s events would have all of the benefits of an event at Mory’s, like cups and possibly a cappella, without actually being at Mory’s.
At the meeting, Blumenfeld said, he suggested that the a cappella groups perform at The Graduate Club, a colonial building on Elm St. that resembles Mory’s with its green shutters and white wood paneling. Founded in 1892, The Graduate Club — like Mory’s — is a membership club for the University’s college and university graduates. Currently, the location is being used for the Mory’s board of governors’ meetings, Blumenfeld added.
Also in attendance was Anna Wood ’09, the business manager of Whim ‘n Rhythm. While she said last week that she has not yet approached her group with the option of performing in The Graduate Club, she said the move “might be a good thing to do.” Still, she added, “If it’s not Mory’s, they may not feel like it’s worth it.”
Nicholas Clemm ’10, the business manager of the Society of Orpheus and Bacchus, said the group is hoping to move to the Graduate Club for its weekly performance. In the meantime, he said, the singers have been meeting at various off-campus locations around New Haven.
“Obviously it’s difficult and it’s not the same as being at Mory’s,” he said.
NO PLACE FOR POLITICS
But the YPU — a 75-year-old undergraduate organization — has not received as much aid from Mory’s in finding a new venue for their festivities. While a number of the political parties host regular lunches and invite guests to dine at the club, they did not serve as the club’s entertainment nor did they have a prearranged schedule as the a cappella groups did, Blumenfeld said.
The Conservative Party, for one, held the Sir Thomas More Lecture Series — lunches and lectures with Yale professors — on the second floor’s President’s Room every Friday at Mory’s, Chairman Andrew Eberle ’11 said. The private rooms, Eberle said, exude a feeling of belonging “in a tradition of higher education.”
As a result of the closure, the Conservative Party now hosts their speakers in the Swiss Room above the Berkeley Dining Hall.
But given logistical issues in reserving Yale facilities, the YPU has resorted to hosting most of its guests in off-campus locations, Manners-Weber said. A recent dinner with the political activist Cindy Sheehan, for instance, was held at the Thai food restaurant Bangkok Garden on York Street, Manners-Weber said.
But beyond guest lectures, the YPU’s larger galas have been affected by the closure of Mory’s, too. Manners-Weber said the YPU had hoped to host a toasting at Mory’s with its alumni to mark its 75th anniversary in 2009.
Indeed, Alexander Ramey ’10, the chairman of the Tory Party, said the closing of Mory’s is particularly upsetting for the Old Blues. “The alumni especially have quite a bit of emotional attachment,” he said.
The board of governors tried to open up Mory’s in the spring for the Tory Party’s 40th anniversary party, Getman said, but the club’s insurance company warned Mory’s against it. “We tried and we are sad that we couldn’t,” he said. “It would have been foolish.”
While many of the students interviewed expressed surprise with the abrupt closing of Mory’s, some of them said they began to lost interest in Mory’s before its closure.
The closure “wasn’t unexpected,” said Eberle, the party chair of the Conservative Party. But he said he is confident that Mory’s has not reached its end. Unfortunately, he said, Mory’s had to close just as it was starting to implement student friendly policies, including an attempt to make the menu “less archaic.”
But among some groups, loyalties to Mory’s dwindled long before the club’s doors officially closed. Jacob Abolafia ’10, the chairman of the Yale Record — a 137-year old humor magazine which traditionally held a toasting and initiation at the end of each semester at Mory’s — said the club’s tightening of alcohol policies made the place less attractive to students. “I think the Connecticut alcohol laws put them between a rock and a hard place,” he said.
He added that the Record started looking for other options before Mory’s closed.
Other groups, like Yale’s chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity, can easily adapt to new locations as long as they continue the once-a-semester toastings, said the fraternity’s president, Karan Arakotaram ’10, who is a staff reporter for the News. The group obtained the fraternity’s personal cup, which was stored at Mory’s, to continue their toasting rituals elsewhere. Robin Soltesz — currently the only employee at Mory’s — set up a system to lease the cups once Mory’s closed, Blumenfeld said.
But luckily, Arakotaram said, the Mory’s cup and song can come alive beyond the walls of the legendary club. Mory’s might be gone, he said, but its traditions carry on.