Bespoke plans rebirth

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Photo by YDN.

Bespoke Restaurant and Lounge, known for its popular French-inspired food and lengthy property dispute with Yale, will close its doors this Saturday as the venue’s owner begins renovations to open under a new name — ending the restaurant’s nearly six-year run in New Haven.

In its wake will come a new, Moroccan-style venue called Gilt, which will employ Bespoke’s current chefs and staff members. Lauren Kendzierski, Bespoke’s owner, said that after having hosted several successful events with Yale students, she is looking to change the restaurant’s concept to better fit the nightlife model that she finds students are looking for.

“After being open five years, we just want to change it up and do something different — less of the stark, dramatic modern that’s kind of drifting past in the architectural scene,” Kendzierski said. “It’s going to be a remarkable change.”

Kendzierski has been the owner of Bespoke for just over two years, having taken control of the restaurant after the prior owners and original founders — Arturo Camacho and Suzette Franco-Camacho — left New Haven and their business in 2010. The two had been engaged in a lengthy and costly legal dispute with the University over a strip of walkway that connected the rear of the restaurant to a back lot.

Yale purchased the back lot in 1999, but the Franco-Camachos had since tried to establish ownership of the walkway through “squatter’s rights.” In 2005, the University placed a metal gate in front of Bespoke’s back door along what the University said was its property border. The gate could only unlock from Yale’s side and was placed so close to the back door that the door could only open partially. Both parties entered into a settlement in 2007, agreeing to share the property.

But shortly after a judge confirmed the settlement, the University backed out because the deal did not mention Yale’s property rights to the area and because the Yale lawyer who negotiated the agreement did not have the authority to do so in the first place, the University told the News in 2007. Yale later refused to renew the Franco-Camachos’ lease on their other restaurant, the popular Latin-fusion eatery Roomba, and effectively forced the eatery to shut down in June 2007.

The settlement was upheld in New Haven Superior Court in 2009, and Yale lawyers appealed the decision. Even though an appellate court ruled in favor of the Franco-Camachos in 2010, the owners sold both the building and the restaurant to relocate and start two new restaurants in Branford. The couple told the News in 2010 that a combination of the loss of Roomba, legal expenses and the emotional toll of years of litigation led them to seek a new beginning outside the Elm City.

While Bespoke’s closing marks the end of a restaurant that was marked through its history as having a tumultuous relationship with Yale, Kendzierski said she is on good terms with the University. She explained that the decision to close Bespoke and reopen as Gilt had nothing to do with Bespoke’s legal history and is solely about updating the concept of the restaurant.

Kendzierski said the renovations that will convert Bespoke to Gilt include new furniture, decoration and menus. She added that she loves the aesthetic of Moroccan style and its French influence. Gilt’s new theme, she said, will include brown leather seating as well as gold-silver and tile-top tables to create a lounge area “unlike anything in New Haven.”

Kendzierski said the restaurant is purchasing a wrought-iron door that will “add an Old World feel” along with several tables imported from India.

Some students said they are disappointed by Bespoke’s closing. Four undergraduates interviewed said that they enjoyed eating at Bespoke in the past and were sad to hear of the closing, yet interested in what Gilt will offer.

“Bespoke’s decor is really nice and the vibe is great — it’s relaxing and cozy,” Emily Gray ’13 said. “The food is good too — I went for my birthday and I had the best salmon in my life.”

Kendzierski said that the renovation process will not change the layout of the space, and Gilt will open next Friday.

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