The Union League Café, New Haven’s upscale French restaurant, is playing host to one of Yale’s most treasured traditions: the Whiffenpoofs’ weekly Monday performance.
The all-male senior a cappella group has been singing Monday evenings at Mory’s Temple Bar since they were founded one hundred years ago. Now, with Mory’s closed due to financial difficulties, the Whiffs have been forced to find a new venue. For now, as the group waits to see if Mory’s will revive itself, Union League will serve as the weekly spot, though Whiffs say it still is not their true home.
James Warlick ’10, the group’s business manager, said they considered several clubs and restaurants in their search for a new home. The Graduate Club, the Quinnipiac Club, and the Study were all on the list.
The Whiffs settled on Union League after Warlick received a call from Jonathan Bush ’53, uncle of former President George W. Bush ’68. Jonathan Bush, who lives and works in the New Haven area, is a patron of Union League, and he told Warlick it would serve as a good temporary replacement for Mory’s.
Although Union League has adopted some of the Whiffs’ traditions, allowing them to bring the legendary “Mory’s Cup” when they come sing, the restaurant does not feel like “home” the way that Mory’s did, Elliot Watts ’09, a current Whiff, said.
While several Whiffs said they were impressed with the Union League’s food and service after their first night of singing there on Feb. 16, the general feeling in the group was less positive after their second performance Monday night, Watts said.
“We were relegated to the back room, the doors were shut, and we were not performing for the whole audience,” he said.
Mondays at Mory’s, the Whiffs were always the main event, but Watts said he is concerned that they will be more of a sideshow at Union League, and sing to a smaller crowd.
Perhaps more importantly, Mory’s has long been considered a Yale institution and will always be the Whiffs’ original home, making it hard to replace, current Whiff Drew Westphal ’09 said. Where the walls at Mory’s are covered in Yale’s old athletic medals and pictures of American presidents who attended the University, the walls at Union League are painted with images of soft clouds and decorated with elegant curtains.
Westphal admitted, “On paper, Union League has more of everything than Mory’s. It seats more, it’s more full on a regular basis, the food is incredible, the wine is incredible. Even though it has all those fantastic attributes, it’s missing something Mory’s has. It has everything but the intangibles.”
Westphal said he missed the tables where the Whiffs always sat at Mory’s, which are inscribed with the names of past members of the group. Watts said it felt strange to sing the Whiffenpoofs’ song, which mentions Mory’s several times, in another location.
Dennis Cross ’65, president of the Whiffenpoof Alumni and a member of the board of Mory’s, said he is glad that the Whiffs have found a place to continue their tradition of meeting Mondays, but he hopes and expects that they will return to Mory’s when it reopens, which is scheduled to happen next fall.
For the time being, the Whiffs can be heard every Monday from 6:30-9:00 at the Union League Café. Jean Pierre Vuillermet, the restaurant’s chef and owner, said he is putting into effect a $29 dollar menu for Monday nights, and a 10 percent discount for Yale students who come to hear the Whiffs sing.