Yalies with late-night cravings for buttered burgers and fried doughnuts will have to search for other options as the Yankee Doodle, a popular 50-year-old eatery, has decided to close its doors at night.
Until two and a half weeks ago, the Doodle was open from 6 a.m. to 11:15 p.m., seven days a week. While the shop opens at the same time every day, now it closes at 6:30 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, and at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Rick Beckwith, owner of the legendary eatery, said he implemented the change because of his father’s health. Recently, Lew Beckwith Jr., Rick Beckwith’s father and ex-owner of the Doodle, fell ill. The elder Beckwith, 62, has been working at the historic establishment since he was 12. It is the only job he has ever had.
When Lew Beckwith turned over the company to his son in July, they made a deal where the son would work the day shift and the father would work the night shift, Rick Beckwith said. Lew Beckwith’s illness prevented him from cooking at all, however, leaving his son at the grill for 150 hours every week under the old schedule.
“Because the business is all in the family, my father and I were the only cooks,” Rick Beckwith said. “And when he became sick, I had to work all day, seven days a week.”
During the day, the majority of the Doodle’s clientele consists of local workers and businessmen. But at night, students invade the shop’s 12 seats.
“We have a very good business at night, and it will affect our revenue,” Rick said. “But my number one concern is my father’s health. Money isn’t everything.”
While the change may have disappointed a few regular customers, students have shown nothing but sympathy for the Beckwiths’ situation.
“It’s totally understandable,” Sam Hendel ’03 said. “But hopefully, his father will get better and they’ll be able to open back up at night.”
Andrew Cantor ’02, a regular night visitor at the Doodle, even wrote Lew Beckwith a get-well card.
“I’ve been going there since freshman year and I definitely value the place,” Cantor said. “So the change affects me, but really, my thoughts are more with Lew than whether or not I can get a burger late at night.”
Cantor is a former publisher of the Yale Daily News.
During the restaurant’s 50-year history, the owners have developed strong relationships with many Yale students — resulting in extremely long lines during alumni weekends.
“We’ve always been here for the students, and they’ve always been here for us,” Beckwith said. “That’s why I’m keeping open until 6:30 p.m. I’m still working 105 hours a week and I’ll continue to do these hours as long as I physically can.”
Rick will be able to enjoy a well-deserved break during the first two weeks of March, when Yalies return home for spring vacation. The Doodle will close at 3:30 p.m. during this period, as it does every year, because without students, the eatery generates little night business.
The prospect of a return to full steam is not out of the question, Beckwith said. If his condition improves, there is a chance Lew Beckwith will return to work.