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Friday, February 8, 2008

No longer as thick as hasty pudding

Landlord ditches ‘The Doodle’
By Randall Beach
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— The landlord for the Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop, which closed last week, has withdrawn his offer to the owner of “The Doodle” to keep the space vacant for two months.
The latest move by Michael Iannuzzi Sr. comes amid escalating verbal statements between Iannuzzi and Yankee Doodle operator Rick Beckwith. Iannuzzi owns Tyco, the copy business next to the eatery, and also owns the restaurant space.
The collapse of the two men’s long-time business relationship means Beckwith and his supporters will step up work with Yale University property officials who have said they are willing to rent a space for an expanded “Doodle.”
Announcing the quick end of his two-month window for Beckwith and his supporters to come up with a sustainable business plan, Iannuzzi cited Beckwith’s statement issued Tuesday.
“Tyco still refuses to change the unreasonable lease terms that initiated the (restaurant’s) financial problems,” Beckwith said. He also said Tyco should “stop attacking ‘The Doodle’ and my family and stop misrepresenting the situation in the media.”
“I gave them two months and within a day, I get those negative comments,” Iannuzzi said in an interview Thursday.
When he put out his own statement to the media Wednesday night, Iannuzzi said, “Any and all of our attempts to help the Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop were always done with the best intentions in mind, but the attempts have unfortunately been unsuccessful.”
Iannuzzi added, “In light of Rick Beckwith’s recent response to our offer to keep the space vacant, as well as the demands he has imposed upon us, there is no more that we can do, or will do, over the next two months.”
“As a result,” Iannuzzi concluded, “it is best for us to part ways at this time and we wish Rick the very best in the future.”
Beckwith could not be reached for comment. But two of his Yale alumni supporters, Phillip McKee III and Anton Orlich, said they are moving ahead with a business plan for a bigger and better “Doodle” at another site in the neighborhood.
McKee said Thursday it’s beneficial to know Iannuzzi’s two-month period has already ended because it allows them to concentrate on alternative locations. He said Yale officials have pinpointed four potential sites, which he declined to identify. A Yale official could not be reached Thursday to discuss the issue.
McKee said other property owners have also reached out to Beckwith to offer sites in the Elm Street-Broadway neighborhood, where “The Doodle” operated for 58 years under three Beckwith generations.
According to McKee, Iannuzzi was not willing to amend the lease, which prompted Beckwith’s statement. McKee said the lease was “not reasonable” and was far higher than the market rate.
Iannuzzi replied he has had plenty of offers from potential renters to pay that rate of about $1,800 per month plus some utility and property tax fees.
McKee said Beckwith decided to close down because Iannuzzi and his partner, John Parker, had initiated eviction proceedings against him. Iannuzzi confirmed this Thursday, saying Beckwith owed several months of back rent.
“You can’t stay there forever and make no attempt to pay,” Iannuzzi said. “We were left no choice.”
McKee said the resurrected “Doodle” would be open at night (as Yale tenants are required to do) and would have more employees and a more varied menu than the traditional Yankee Doodle eggs, burgers and “pigs in a blanket.”
“The problem with ‘The Doodle’ was not a lack of customers,” McKee said. “It was lack of space.”
Randall Beach can be reached at rbeach@nhregister.com or 789-5766.

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