Cross Campus might be reopening in time for the fall, but another, more scrumptious Yale staple will disappear when Roomba closes its doors this month.
Yale University Properties, which owns the building Roomba occupies, sent a notice of eviction to the restaurant’s owners last week. The relationship between the owners and the University has become increasingly adversarial in recent years, and Roomba has occupied its Sherman’s Alley home without a permanent lease for the past two years.
A separate dispute over property around the back entrance to Bespoke, a College Street restaurant started by Roomba’s owners last year, has brought the two parties to court several times over the past four years. The restaurateurs own the Bespoke property, but both they and Yale lay claim to property behind the restaurant, including a walkway and shed.
One of the restaurants’ owners, Suzette Franco-Camacho, says that Yale officials are unfairly conflating what she contends are two unrelated matters: the Bespoke property dispute and Roomba’s lease.
“They’re not being fair,” Franco-Camacho said. “The sad irony of the situation is we just won Best Mex Restaurant in the Advocate …We have an eight-year track record, and our problems with them have nothing to do with Roomba, but with a legal dispute that they’ve caused.”
Yale officials, meanwhile, insist the issue is cut and dried. Spokesman Tom Conroy said Monday that Roomba is claiming right to property that is indisputably owned by Yale — hence the four-year legal battle — and noted that University Properties has allowed Roomba to remain for two years without a long-term lease in place. He said their closing is unfortunate, but that the owners are free to relocate.
“We wanted to continue our relationship with them,” Conroy said. “The only problem is that they’re contesting our ownership of a property adjacent to their other restaurant.”
Conroy said it is “very perplexing” to the University that the owners would not simply concede the property rights to the disputed area and then agree to license it from Yale.
But Franco-Camacho said the license agreements as well as the leases that University Properties proposed for the Roomba space were “one-sided” documents that “pertain to Yale’s interest, but not ours.”
Roomba will close around Father’s Day this month, and the owners have no immediate plans to reopen the restaurant in a new location, Franco-Camacho said.
With the restaurant’s prices outside most students’ regular budgets, Yalies may care most about the popular burritos sold by Roomba-affiliated carts downtown and on Science Hill. But Franco-Camacho said that “come hell or high water,” the carts will be up and running again in the fall, though Yale is trying to stop the carts from operating in its parking lots.
“They have driven us out of Roomba,” she said, “but we’re not letting them drive us out of town.”
Conroy said that he knew of no immediate plans for what might replace the restaurant at 1044 Chapel Street.