Bespoke owners leave Yale property

The owners of the high-end restaurant Bespoke are leaving New Haven after winning a long legal battle with the University over the access rights to a walkway behind the restaurant’s back door.
The owners of the high-end restaurant Bespoke are leaving New Haven after winning a long legal battle with the University over the access rights to a walkway behind the restaurant’s back door. Photo by Alon Harish.

Despite a state appeals court ruling last week granting a College Street restaurant access to Yale-owned land, its owners have packed up and left the city.

The owners of Bespoke, Arturo Franco-Camacho and his wife, Suzette, were locked in a years-long battle with the University over a tiny vacant lot behind the restaurant. Last Monday, the appeals court ruled that Yale could not back out of a land use agreement it signed with the owners in August 2006, but the pair have sold both the building and left the restaurant, Suzette Franco-Camacho said. The owners are now planning to open two new restaurants in Branford.

Although the new restaurant will keep the name “Bespoke” for now, it will have a new chef. It will continue to run under the ownership of Lauren Kendzierski and chef Yousef Ghalaini.

“What saddens me most is that [the dispute] should have been easily resolved,” Suzette Franco-Camacho said.

Yale officials purchased the lot in 1999, but the Bespoke owners tried to establish the right to use the walkway leading out the back door, as well as a shed that is physically attached to the building and on Yale-owned land. Originally, since Yale had not done anything with the property for years, the Bespoke owners could assert the right to use the walkway and the shed, Arturo Franco-Camacho told the News last September.

But in 2005, Yale officials installed a metal gate along what the University considered its property border. The gate could only be unlocked from Yale’s side, and it was placed so close to the back door that it could only be opened one foot.

In August 2006, former Director of University Properties David Newton and third-party lawyer Tom Sansone signed an agreement with the restaurateurs that would give them access to the lot for at least two years. Upon learning of the agreement, Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs and Campus Development Bruce Alexander ’65 rejected it, arguing that Newton and Sansone lacked the authority to negotiate the deal on Yale’s behalf.

The University suit to throw out the agreement has so far proved unsuccessful. Two out of the three judges on the appellate panel agreed with a 2008 New Haven Superior Court ruling that Newton and Sansone had the “apparent authority” to represent Yale in the agreement, making it legally binding.

Yale plans to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said Sunday. He said in September that Yale is simply trying to avoid “a position in which its legal choices on how to use the property are diminished or blocked.” In the e-mail, Conroy wrote that there are no immediate plans for Yale’s vacant lot behind Bespoke.

University Associate Vice President and University Properties Director Abigail Rider declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the couple — whose other restaurant, Roomba, was evicted by Yale in 2007 as part of the ongoing legal conflict — has said its farewell to the city.

Suzette Franco-Camacho said a combination of the loss of Roomba, the expensive renovations they made to accommodate the loss of their back door and the heavy emotional toll of years of litigation led them to seek a new beginning in Branford.

“The excitement and energy I felt coming to New Haven in 1999 is missing now,” she said. “We’re sad because it should have been a great relationship.”


  • tragedy

    This sucks – Bespoke/Sabor was one of the best restaurants in New Haven. This doesn’t send a good message to future restaurateurs.

  • Yale ’08

    ummmm, what happened to all of the Yale-critical comments on this board?!

  • former student

    When I was a graduate student, I rented an apartment from Yale Properties. They were horrible, ran things in a very draconian way. I feel really bad for these folks, Roomba was great and so was Bespoke. What a loss for Chapel Street.

  • @Yale ’08
  • Istvan (School of Music Alum)

    So sad, but Yale’s behavior is completely predictable and expected. Think about it: do they pay taxes? Do they “own” vast portions of New Haven? What good would it be for Yale to behave otherwise? They would make less money, and control less. Is it Yale’s job to provide us with restaurants? OK, no- but one would think Yale would try to cultivate relationships with cool stores that potential givers of $$, and parents of students (as well as Alums), will spend time.

    For example: Take a close look at Audubon street. Go for a walk there, on the opposite side of Neighborhood Music School (a thriving community). Rows of empty store-fonts. Why? I’m curious. Someone please explain it to me.

    And, yes- I agree with “Yale ’08″: what DID happen to all the “Yale-critical” posts? Hmm?
    Is this considered “abusive” to post an opinion?

    As an Alum, I’m ashamed…because I love New Haven, and hate the way Yale behaves there.

  • Yale drives out businesses again

    Yale killed Sabor, one of the best restaurants around, they’re trying to kill Bespoke, and over on Audubon St there was a thriving shopping area with Sogno boutique, a bead shop, and a unique toy store. Yale hiked rents, drove them all out…and years later those are still empty storefronts. Good job Yale, you continually hurt New Haven, its residents, its entrepreneurs, AND you’re getting less rent with all the businesses you’ve driven away. Makes you wonder if the entire Yale property management is just some white-collar crime scheme and Yale wants their property managment area to lose money hand over fist.

  • @haters

    I loved Bespoke. It sucks they’ll be leaving, and Yale probably could have acted better in that regard.

    THAT SAID, anyone who thinks that Yale continually hurts New Haven, its residents and its entrepreneurs is a fool. Is anyone posting here old enough to remember what Broadway was like before Yale revitalized it? It was bad. Really bad. Anyone here remember what New Haven itself was like when Yale carried out isolationist policies prior to the 80s and 90s? One of the most dangerous cities in America, and no trendy downtown commercial district. The very idea of a place like Bespoke existing in the first place would have been a joke.

    You bitter townies and anti-establishment people have to choose a side. Either you want Yale to stay out of New Haven and let everything outside its walls rot (an approach condemned as being elitist and narrowminded), or you want it to be involved and pour money into the community (and, occasionally, mess up and lose business, as in the case of Bespoke). You can’t have it both ways, kids. Wake up.

  • watcher

    @haters –To say the choice is between Yale out of New Haven or everyone accepting without criticism whatever Yale does is absurd. By this thinking one would have to accept mafia control if it led to job security and safe streets!
    There seem to be some real problems in the University Properties division. Maybe too much of a top-down ethos? Anyway, it is interesting to note there is money to continue this lawsuit but not for staff or security personnel.

  • @watcher

    Certainly not without criticism- I criticized them in the first line of my comment. However, the comments here and on the New Haven Register’s website are a bit more than “criticism.” It’s the usual nonsense about Yale being a greedy corporation that eats everything in its way without consideration for the community, and THAT is the absurd notion.

  • Yale “occasionally” messes-up?

    Quoting: “occasionally, mess up and lose business, as in the case of Bespoke”.

    Yale didn’t “mess up”. “Oops, we made a mistake, sorry you’re leaving Bespoke”. Yale “probably” could’ve acted better in that regard?!?

    Yale repeatedly makes completely bone-headed choices, and pushes those choices through to their bitter end, even if it takes them years and $$$ to do it. And the end result, completely predictable. Bad for New Haven. And sometimes bad for Yale too.

    I castigate Yale not for being imperfect, nor do I castigate them for not dumping all that is possible into New Haven (Yale isn’t a charity after all).

    And I’m not saying they do nothing good…I should’ve written “repeatedly hurt” rather than “continually hurt”.

    But I do castigate them for repeatedly royally screwing-up, making some astoundingly bone-headed decisions, which they doggedly push through with.
    Yale doesn’t have to treat New Haven like their idol…but is there any reason Yale needs to periodically kick New Haven in the teeth?

  • ’98

    The only difference between New Haven and Bridgeport is that New Haven has Yale.

  • @ ’98

    True, Bridgeport is nicer…….

  • higeReifess

    thanks! :)

    lets write them until the admit it, or stop doing it! i am writing them now!