Now that Rudy’s Bar and Grill has left its 76-year Elm Street lot for a new spot on Chapel Street,a similar joint will claim its former digs by this Thanksgiving if the owners of next-door neighbor Main Garden get their way.
A representative of Main Garden, who requested anonymity to discuss the plans, whose landlord, Hang Seng Inc., owns the former Rudy’s lot, said he is participating in a partnership with three local investors to create a separate upscale bar and restaurant in the old Rudy’s property, but he added (speaking Mandarin) that the atmosphere of the new venue will be “like the old Rudy’s.” Renovations are already underway for the new restaurant, which as of now does not have a name.
Rudy’s owner, Omer Ipek, said Tuesday that the Elm Street restaurant is the result of months-long process to kick out his business. And the Main Garden representative said the tension between Rudy’s and Main Garden may soon worsen because Hang Seng is considering suing Rudy’s over alleged property damages.
During the move-out process, he said, Rudy’s damaged two air conditioners, the stage and the floor; the former tenant also allegedly removed property such as a photograph of a football game at the Yale Bowl, circa 1929, and an exterior iron fence. Ipek denied these claims Tuesday, saying he thinks that the landlord has treated him unfairly by forcing him out.
“Bottom line, whatever I took was mine,” Ipek said, referring to the photograph. “Rudy’s has been there for 76 years. … Everything is old inside. Nothing that we took wasn’t ours.”
The Main Garden representative said Hang Seng Inc. has had a real estate inspector examine the old Rudy’s lot. The inspector concluded that the damage was “beyond reasonable expectations,” the representative said.
Rudy’s has lost one battle already: Though the New Haven Independent reported in June that Leo “Big Daddy” Vigue, the 76-year-old bartender who had become Rudy’s most recognizable figure (and who was often mistaken for Rudy himself), would be retiring, the Main Garden representative said Vigue has been hired to work at the new Elm Street dive. Vigue could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Rudy’s will reopen in a couple months at the corner of Chapel and Howe streets, Ipek said Tuesday. He added that he is trying to continue the tradition of beer and frites that kept patrons coming back for decades.
Naomi Lisan ’11 said it was the grungy bar atmosphere of old Rudy’s that appealed to her. Lisan said she plans to check out the new one when it opens “as long as they still have frites.”
Emily Robichaud, a bartender at Rudy’s, said in July that Rudy’s would move memorabilia from the old location — especially iconic items, such as a photo of the Yale bulldog and another of a football game at the Yale Bowl, circa 1929.
Ipek purchased Rudy’s in 2003, a year after Main Garden opened.