Richter’s Readies For The End

Thomas MacMIllan PhotoAs a regular tipped back one of his last pints of Sierra Nevada before Richter’s bar goes out of business, owner Dieter vonRabenstein voiced a warning to other downtown publicans: You’re next.

Richter’s is the latest downtown bar to succumb to economic forces and shut its doors, following Christy’s on Orange Street, which closed several months ago. The Chapel Street pub will have its last call on June 25, just shy of an eviction date of July 1.

Other bar closings will follow soon after, predicted vonRabenstein, who has owned Richter’s for 10 years and worked there for 23. The recession and a worsening business environment will claim other bars before the summer is out, he said.

The 49-year-old barkeep made his prediction Wednesday afternoon at a corner table in the back room of his bar, which is lined in dark, 150-year-old carved wood paneling. Over a club soda and two Camel cigarettes, he told the story of his more than two decades at Richter’s, and how his time has come to a close, thanks to changing regulations and a changing bar culture.

“I’m not making any money,” vonRabenstein said. “I haven’t paid myself in well over a year.”

VonRabenstein said he’s a victim of the recession, which has decimated his lunchtime business. More and more people are bringing lunch from home, he said. Meanwhile, increasing liquor and health regulations have been making it harder and harder to turn a profit, he said. On top of that, vonRabenstein is in the middle of a court battle with his landlord over the rent, which he hasn’t paid since February.

“I’ve got two kids in college,” vonRabenstein said. “I’ve got to make money.”

The bar has been struggling for years, and vonRabenstein hasn’t been able to pull in enough money to reinvest in the business, he said. He rattled off a list of things that need to be repaired, from the facade to the electrical system to the bathrooms. But he’s got no money to pay for it, he said. “That’s frustrating as all hell.”

The regulars who used to come for lunch three or four times a week now come only once every two weeks, he said. It costs the bar $1,600 a day to do nothing more than turn the taps on, he said. Without the $800 he used to get from lunches, there’s no way to end up in the black at the end of the day, he said.

Summertime becomes a “triple whammy,” vonRabenstein said. With all the schools out of session and people away on vacation, “It’s like a ghost town.”

Even in the best of times, the bar used to lose money in the summer. “On good years, I lose about 10 grand a summer,” vonRabenstein said. The last three years, it’s been more like $50,000 lost, he said.

VonRabenstein said he’s also been hit by increased governmental regulations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants him to spend $4,000 on a new grease trap that he’d have to reconfigure his whole kitchen to install, he said. If he didn’t put it in by July 1, he’d be fined $300 a day, he said.

As for local government. vonRabenstein had no kind words there either. “The city has no leadership,” he said, as he decried the midnight meter plan, which he said will hurt downtown businesses.

Besides regulation changes, Richter’s has also suffered from cultural shifts. People are afraid to drink these days, for fear they’ll get a DUI. “What’s the fun in drinking if you can’t drink?”

There was a time he used to get up every morning and enjoy coming to work, vonRabenstein said. “This business that used to be a lot of fun is not anymore. This has become a chore,” he said.

History Teacher

Things were more fun when he started, vonRabenstein said. He had his first day of work March 22, 1988, just over five years after Richter Elser opened the bar on Jan. 6, 1983.

Elser, the Yale grad and later Republican mayoral candidate who started the bar, took over what had been part of the Taft Hotel, vonRabenstein said. The hotel was built in 1911, and had its heyday in the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s. “This was the tap room for the hotel,” vonRabenstein said, pointing to a rear door that once led to the main hotel.

The carved dark wood paneling that makes Richter’s so distinctive is much older, vonRabenstein said. The paneling dates from the 1850s, when it was installed in the New Haven Hotel, which stood on the same location before the Taft. When the old hotel was demolished to make way for the new one, the paneling was carefully removed, then reinstalled in the new building, vonRabenstein said.

Fast forward to the late 1980s: vonRabenstein was hired on staff and soon took over as manager. He regularly put in 80-hour weeks running the place. He was there so much that most people thought he was Richter, vonRabenstein said. When he bought the bar in 2001 from Richter, vonRabenstein kept the name along with the oars and other memorabilia from Richter’s time as a coach on rower for the Yale crew team.

Richter’s now has eight full- and part-time workers, vonRabenstein said. The longest-serving has been there for 19 years. The second longest? Eighteen years.

“This place is really like Cheers,” vonRabenstein said. “Everybody knows your name.”

“It might be trite, but this place is like the place on Cheers,” said Richter’s regular Wes Wright, moments later, unprompted. “Everybody knows each other. It’s just a place with good energy.”

Wright walked in at about 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and bartender Christi Messore was already pouring a Sierra Nevada pale ale for him, unprompted. Richter’s is that kind of place, she said. When a regular walks in, she has his drink ready by the time he sits down.

“I’m sad to leave my customers,” said Messore, who’s worked at the bar for four years. “I don’t know where they’re going to go.”

She said she didn’t know where she is going to go either. Neither did 64-year-old Richard Claxton, the cook of 19 years. He was too modest to say so, but Massore said people pre-order his meatloaf when he makes it as a special. She said she texts customers when he puts it on the menu and they text back to reserve a portion.

VonRabenstein said he doesn’t have another job lined up, but he knows what he’d like to do. “In a perfect world, I’d like to teach high school history and tend bar at night.”

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posted by: anon on June 9, 2011  7:57am

Nice article showing that a fundamental economic rebalancing is needed. Economic conditions in the US are changing VERY quickly and we haven’t given much thought about how to keep up.

Of course more businesses will leave until this is corrected.

1) Rents are high because taxes are high because we need to subsidize the SUVs, six figure salaries and suburban homes of union leadership.

2) Cars are consuming an increasing share of household income. If lower cost alternatives like streetcars and safe biking and walking routes were available, people would flock downtown to bars like these.  Unfortunately the city is raising parking fees while doing nothing serious to promote alternatives.

Young people drink just as much beer as they used to, and love going out to downtown - they just don’t have cars and/or can’t afford to drive places.  The owner here should be looking at demographic issues, not complaining about DUI enforcement.

3) People have less time to waste looking for parking. Take the vast seas of one way asphalt downtown and turn them into two way streets with diagonal parking.

posted by: roasty on June 9, 2011  8:35am

What a shame, one of the best New Haven institutions.  The Daily, The Doodle, The old Rudy’s….what’s next?

PTK, where will we go??

posted by: V on June 9, 2011  8:43am

I had my first Sierra Nevada at Richter’s, a half yard.
VonRabenstein should sell off the memorabilia, I know I’d be there with a stack of money.

posted by: Deja Vu on June 9, 2011  8:44am

Yet another old New Haven institution bites the dust. I’m very sad to see Richters go. This is just the beginning. I hate to think how bad things will get when midnight parking meters start.

This will be polished as yet another great success by the DeStefano administration. Moving drunks on from downtown at night will make life better for the rich and famous who can afford to live there. He’s been wanting to close down the entertainment district for years. Must keep Mr Becker happy.

I’m surprised Mayor DeStefano didn’t get a photo opp on this story to tell us all what a great job he’s doing. I just can’t wait to see what replaces Richters. Not another tattoo parlor, but a gentlemen’s club. Its 1982 again, and back to the future in New Haven.

posted by: Yimski on June 9, 2011  9:13am

Not to be mean, but times have changed.  Used to be Richter’s was one of the few options for a beer and burger in town.  Now there are far more, and honestly, better options all over downtown.  Don’t blame the government, just take a look at Prime 16 and Cask Republic in the evenings.  That’s where all your customers have gone.

posted by: Brian M. on June 9, 2011  9:46am

Classic example of the problems that come with a demand-driven recession.

The idea that the bar is empty because taxes are too high is ridiculous.

Do people like to drink beer? Yes. Do people who are struggling to hold onto their job and who haven’t gotten mortgage writedowns and can’t get credit cut back on things like beer? Yes.

This isn’t about cars or unions - NHI faves! - it’s a piece of evidence, staring us in the face, of how this isn’t just a jobless recovery, but a growthless one.

posted by: Pedro Soto on June 9, 2011  10:46am

I don’t quite share anon’s prognosis for Richter’s closing, although I agree with some of his prescriptions (YES ANGLED PARKING!). We need to treat downtown like a destination and not a thruway.

Richter’s problems are more indicative of a thriving downtown bar scene, not a shrinking one. The competition for high-quality establishments is incredibly intense.

Look at establishments like the new Rudys, Cask Republic, and not so new mainstays like Prime 16 and Geronimo. They are absolutely packed, almost every day of the week. The ones hat hit the mark thrive, the ones that don’t (like Christy’s) close. Look how many new places are opening shortly or will open. There are huge bets being placed on the New Haven dining scene these days.

Gourmet quality food, and an expansive and constantly changing beer selection are the new standard for bars downtown. If you don’t have them, customers will go elsewhere.

posted by: davec on June 9, 2011  10:58am

Fantastic photographic portraits!

Idea.  Make a book of MacMillan’s photos for the NHI and sell the book on the website as a fundraiser.

posted by: Chris on June 9, 2011  11:42am

Well said Pedro.

posted by: Ellis Copeland on June 9, 2011  11:57am

Sad, sad, sad though I admit it’s been awhile since I went to Richter’s.  I’ll correct that immediately.  Diagonal parking on “seas of asphalt”—where?? Obviously an idea from a suburbanite. As to Christy’s—neither regulation nor recession killed it.  ... (I’d elaborate but Paul is too gutless to let the truth be posted).

posted by: anon on June 9, 2011  12:05pm

I disagree, Brian M and Pedro.  Urban areas with lower cost of living differentials and better transportation access are growing far more quickly than New Haven.  Truly walkable areas command far greater sales, promote household savings, and create new jobs. 

Sure, New Haven is already great and has some thriving bars.  But if we are content with our current state of affairs, we will slowly decline as other nearby cities and towns (like West Hartford) improve themselves.

What person finds it comfortable to cross the extraordinarily wide intersection of College & Chapel as people run red lights at 50 miles per hour?  If we create a pleasant place to be, people and businesses will flock to the area. 

We have to realize that New Haven’s demographic is not entirely 25-55 year old middle aged folks with high incomes, who drive into work, like virtually everyone who works at City Hall.  We also have low-income people, recent graduates with no money, young children, elderly and families with strollers living here too.  They would gladly patronize downtown if we accommodated them. 

These are the reasons we are seeing retail vacancies.

posted by: brian on June 9, 2011  12:05pm

“. Over a club soda and two Camel cigarettes, he told the story of his more than two decades at Richter’s, and how his time has come to a close, thanks to changing regulations and a changing bar culture”

so people can smoke inside now that theyre going out of business? hahaha

posted by: Atwater on June 9, 2011  12:48pm

@anon: I don’t think we can really say that the addition of restaurants and bars is growth. Not sustainable growth anyway. It seems New Haven has too many bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Richters is just a victim of over-saturation of the market.
In order to attract more people downtown there has to be an effort to attract more working-class people to live in the city. When New Haven’s downtown was bustling it was mostly due to it being the area were practical retail, grocery and other services were located. People who lived outside downtown would go downtown to shop for necessities. Now, downtown is just a large business/entertainment district that serves no real practical purpose, that is why it is a ghost town on the weekends and in the summer.
I think if downtown had more (or any) hardware stores, clothing stores, grocery stores, etc., than people who live in New Haven would go to the area. Personally I would much rather walk 15 minutes than take a 45 minute bus ride every time I needed something like a rake, new clothes or some groceries. Sadly all one can get downtown is a cold beer and an overpriced sweater from J.Crew.

posted by: SaveOurCity on June 9, 2011  2:34pm

No question - too much government crushes small businesses.  Think about his cost explosions in the past few years

> Rental rates through the roof driven up by real estate taxes (funneling $$ to union bosses)

> Insurance rates driven up by frivolous lawsuits (lining the pockets of lawyers)

> Regulatory costs going up (see example in the story)

> Labor costs going up because of the CT Sick Time law.

Sadly, its probably time to get out of the business.

When will the DeStefanos/Malloys/Obamas of the world learn that growth comes from leaving business alone and freeing them to expand/hire/pay dividends to shareholders.

posted by: Brian M. on June 9, 2011  3:12pm

I would love to see what aspects of West Hartford commenters like anon would be willing to accept in New Haven.

My guess?


The idea that we should stop new restaurants from opening in the city is one of the more spectacularly silly ideas I’ve seen on these comments in awhile.

Bars and restaurants and businesses open and close all the time in dynamic cities. That’s life. What you don’t want are a bunch of lousy restaurants that are the only game in town and survive because there’s no investment or because a zoning board makes it too hard for new spots to open. Remember when Cathy Weber wanted to shoot down Caseus’ proposed 2nd location because she never heard of a business called a ‘cheese shop’? ...

And if you don’t think a restaurant provides real growth - ask the people who work there, the vendors who supply it, the businesses nearby, etc. It’s real money.

People can go where they want to, but where’s the evidence that New Haven is somehow “oversaturated” or a “ghost town”? Both can’t really be true, ya know. A few weeks ago people wanted to run parking meters till midnight to capture money from the too-many suburbanites who have the gall to think they could sit down to dinner without having to get up 3x to feed a meter. Now, this week it’s a ghost town, but next week it’ll be too crowded. Meanwhile, those calling for more walkability will complain endlessly about anything that actually encourages density – i.e., “oversaturation.”

What this closing suggests is that either the place hasn’t adapted, or that the economy - which we all know is terrible right now - is claiming another scalp. I’m not sure why the latter isn’t a compelling explanation when stories like these are being written all over the nation.

The solution, whatever it is, isn’t to run good places out of town so we can all go back to buying hammers and rakes and be forced to sip warm beer at lousy burger bars because that’s how they rolled in 1915. Ye olde tymes!

posted by: Ellis Copeland on June 9, 2011  3:40pm

Atwater—obviously you don’t live downtown.  Richter’s may lose money during the summer but I can assure you downtown is NOT a ghost town during the summer or on any weekend of the year.


posted by: Scott on June 9, 2011  3:47pm

Geez, that couple of blocks of Chapel St. is really becoming a ghost town.  Is Zinc the only thing left alongside the green?

We were just in Richter’s on Monday night, and I’m not really surprised to see this news.  About half the beer taps have gone dry, and the whiskey list was “you should probably go look at the bottles we still have”.

posted by: Tracey on June 9, 2011  4:35pm

Prime 16 and the Cask Republic are simply TGI Fridays with better beer selections.  It’s disheartening that such sterile places are doing well.

I will miss Richter’s.

posted by: swatty on June 9, 2011  4:50pm

Cask Republic? does that place still have pepsi instead of coke?

I’ll have a rum and ummm pepsi?

a jack and ummm pepsi?

please. discerning drinkers need not apply.

posted by: J.T, on June 9, 2011  6:20pm

It also doesn’t help that the place is on the green, and in a prime location on Chapel St. Im sure the rent is alot higher than other bars in New Haven. Although it is upsetting to hear of Richters closing it do not feel it is the end to other bars in the elm city.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 9, 2011  7:27pm

As for the comments about ways for encouraging business activity along Chapel Street, I think that modifying the streets is a great way to spur investment. Perpendicular parking, or diagonal parking would double the number of parking spaces, which would allow for the cost of meters to be cut in half (theoretically). Rationalizing traffic movement by making streets two way, and having dedicated on-street parking spaces with curb bump outs on both sides of every street would also further increase parking, decrease street crossing distance for pedestrians, and provide a much improved pedestrian buffer for people walking along the sidewalk and it would make outdoor seating much more viable.

The neighborhood Main Streets and thoroughfares - Dixwell, Whalley, Congress, Grand, State, Legion, etc - are the places that traditionally provided residents with their daily needs like clothes shops, general stores, groceries, bakeries, hardware stores, barber shops, theaters, parks, etc. Downtown was the place that wealthy shoppers went to for department stores (Shartenberg, Malleys, Gamble-Desmond) to get higher end goods. For instance, people who lived on Saint Ronan or Prospect Street didn’t have access to a shopping district because their neighborhood was made up on large lot single family homes, so they would come downtown to shop. Working residents would also shop at these stores downtown occasionally for Christmas presents or a nice Easter Sunday suit, but many of the shops were out of the daily price range of most residents.
The Oak Street neighborhood, which was adjacent to downtown was definitely working class with specialty markets, discount stores, street vendors, etc, but downtown was too expensive for most working families to be able to open a shop, especially around the Green. State Street downtown and the area around what is now the Arts District could probably be described as working class areas with meat markets, wholesale grocers and other shops that neighborhood store owners would buy wholesale from to sell in their local business on one of the city’s neighborhood thoroughfares. Property values did drop downtown in the 1930s, when apartment buildings and hotels were subdivided into boarding room houses, and so downtown became more accessible to all residents and businesses, but I’m not so sure this can be described as such a great thing.
The neighborhood is really the place for daily needs and activities such as shopping, working, recreation, living, and entertainment. Downtown is generally more for upper class functions except perhaps around the fringes where property is cheaper. While more working class uses in the downtown is certainly a good thing to encourage, I think the larger tragedy is the deficiency and dysfunction of many of the city’s neighborhood thoroughfares to provide their residents with things they need.

posted by: Jack Daniels (or Two) on June 9, 2011  8:50pm

I don’t blame vonRabenstein for closing down before the parking meters need feeding till midnight. I work downtown and regularly had a drink or two after work with colleagues till about 5 years back. I’d leave my parking lot and get close to the bar of the day, so I could get out of town to my family about 7.00. I think the meters used to shut down at 5.30. Now it’s 7.00. Also many previously free parking streets have had meters planted on them. Too many parking tickets cured my drinking habit, at least in New Haven, not that it really needed curing. I gave up on Richters as a regular customer years ago as it was just too much of a hassle to get there to eat or drink. A pity, as the food was always good, and fairly priced.

I now socialize after work nearer home on the shoreline, where there are many very good bars with free parking, and no hassle. Most of them are cheaper than New Haven, and also put out a Happy Hour spread, just like the old days.

The problem I have with this is I’m now distanced from all my co-workers and business acquaintances. Sure, I enjoy myself with my new found friends out of town, but all those important business networking opportunities in New Haven have gone.

I really do think it’s time the Chamber of Commerce woke up got to grips with this. If not the city is just going to fade away. In my humble opinion DeStefano has bankrupted the city by building too many schools, or palaces may be a better description. What I want to know is when will the business community catch up to the problem

posted by: anon on June 9, 2011  10:13pm

that’s johnny d for you…. let all of the businesses go under!!!!!! he don’t care!!!

posted by: Gener on June 10, 2011  1:41am

I’d try to make it down there for a drink next week, but I doubt I’ll have enough quarters to feed the meters.  What is it, 25 cents for 10 minutes???
The pull factors in New Haven are seriously dwindling.

posted by: Alex on June 10, 2011  4:13am

Such a tragic shame!!!This didn’t have to happen. The City has still not gotten it right on downtown retail and restaurants. Charging more for parking is indicative of their stupidity and Yale doesn’t really help. What will replace them? A cell phone store? Wow Copper Kitchen, Richters, and recently, Seychelles after 20 years. Soooo sad. Downtown is headed in a bad direction!

posted by: Atwater on June 10, 2011  7:38am

@Jonathan Hopkins: I’ll have to disagree with your assessment of historic downtown. My father grew up here in the 50’s and 60’s and he was far from upper class. To him downtown was a place his mother and father went to buy the kids’ school clothes, to buy hardware and even groceries. When downtown started dying my father left the city as it was less expensive and more convenient to live in one of the shoreline towns. Looking at pictures of the former downtown and comparing them with today’s version leaves one to mourn the loss of a practical downtown area that provides for the city’s residents.
But, even if my father’s memory is incorrect, one must certainly agree that any downtown area should be a city’s “shopping district” and not just a series of streets and avenues lined with boutique high-end clothiers, pubs and restaurants.

posted by: g on June 10, 2011  8:16am

It costs $1600 a day just to open the bar?  That’s $584,000 a year.  Something does not ad up here   I would like the owner to explain this…....

posted by: RKan on June 10, 2011  9:45am

From anon:
“We have to realize that New Haven’s demographic is not entirely 25-55 year old middle aged folks with high incomes, who drive into work, like virtually everyone who works at City Hall.  We also have low-income people, recent graduates with no money, young children, elderly and families with strollers living here too.  They would gladly patronize downtown if we accommodated them.”

“25-55 year old middle aged folks”???

And we have to accommodate the “low-income”, “recent graduates with no money”, and “young children”??? Yeah, those are really valuable demographics that business owners should be altering their practices to accommodate.

So much nonsense.

I would agree with others who suggest that perhaps Richter’s is failing in its efforts to COMPETE with newer, better businesses, rather than succumbing to evil government policies.

posted by: RC on June 10, 2011  10:04am

The same qualities that some (myself included)loved about Richter’s (consistency and resistance to change) are unfortunately what caused its downfall.

posted by: anon on June 10, 2011  11:01am

RKan, fully half of the city’s population is under the age of 29. And there are plenty of families in the area.

Perhaps they wouldn’t patronize Richter’s, but there are plenty of other businesses (like diners or clothing stores) would open on Chapel Street if our downtown area accommodated people of all ages.

posted by: robn on June 10, 2011  12:51pm


I was also wondering about the $1600/day cost of doing business.

posted by: Dan Nugent on June 10, 2011  4:04pm

Robn and G,

The $1600 a day thing really doesn’t surprise me. You have to think of all costs that involve operating a bar / restaurant. Electric, gas, rent, license fees, insurance. Just to name a few. So many people think that just because a bar charges $5 a beer, that $5 goes directly into the owners pocket. That’s not the case at all. There are a ton of extra costs that go into operating a legitimate bar.  You would be suprised. Just ask a bar owner sometime and I’m sure they will give you a nice rant on how expensive it is just to operate.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 10, 2011  8:41pm

I was describing the downtown around 1910. After teh 1930s, property values fell and less expensive businesses and shops moved in to downtown, so your dad’s recollections are likely accurate. I think we were talking about different eras.

posted by: value my life on June 11, 2011  8:48am

We used to actually drive into New Haven at night to go to Richters years ago on a regular basis. I wouldnt drive into New Haven at any time of day now unless I had to. And theres thousands more that feel the same way.

posted by: Yimaki on June 11, 2011  10:06pm

Please, dear Jonathan Hopkins, keep in mind the words of the equally romantic and perhaps more brilliant German philolsopher Hegel

” Philosophy in any case always comes on the scene too late to give it… When philosophy paints its gloomy picture then a form of life has grown old. It cannot be rejuvenated by the gloomy picture, but only understood. Only when the dusk starts to fall does the owl of Minerva spread its wings and fly. ”
—G.W.F. Hegel,

Which is to say, the reality of New Haven is far beyond what you think it is and was.  No matter how local you think you are.  It has already changed.  And is changing. 

The all to comfortable and lazy terms of suburban and urban are lacking.  People are both and then one and then the other, depending on the day and the week and the month.  One lives in Hamden and works at Yale New Haven and the is laid off and then works in Wallingford and then moves in with the old boyfriend in Newhalliville and gets a job in Fair Haven.  And so on and so forth and so forth and so forth. The world moves much more quickly ...

posted by: Alex on June 12, 2011  3:17am

“value my life on” why don’t you want to come in to NH any time of day now? In the 80s it was dangerous but now it is as safe as ANY of your suburbs, safer than most. Car theft is higher at CT Post Mall than in NH. My wife and teen aged daughter lived in downtown for several years and the only problem I ever had was being harassed once by some drunk, white suburban guys in a parking gargage because I asked them not to pee there. Your comment sounds subtly racist to me.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 12, 2011  6:32pm

The neighborhood was never a walled community, not even in 1910, of course people who lived in Newhallville worked at the Sargent Factory in Wooster Square, and Fair Haveners worked on railroads in the Hill; the point was that the neighborhood was a clear center for the surrounding communities where they could find work, shop, live affordably, and enjoy civic and recreational activities. This centralizing presence didn’t confine people to their immediate surroundings - residents were free to move about the city.
Creating and encouraging neighborhood centers is still relevant today - look at Upper State Street in East Rock, Grand Avenue in Fair Haven, or Whitney Avenue in Hamden - there is no good reason why this places can’t be improved and restored in places like Newhallville, the Hill, and West River.
A neighborhood acts very similarly to a small town - they are nearly identical actually, with the only major difference being that a neighborhood is surrounded by other neighborhoods and connected to a downtown (the ingredients of a city) and a small town is pretty much just a neighborhood that is surrounded by farmland and woods.

posted by: Diogenes on June 13, 2011  2:08pm

To quote: Besides regulation changes, Richter’s has also suffered from cultural shifts. People are afraid to drink these days, for fear they’ll get a DUI. “What’s the fun in drinking if you can’t drink?

If this guy’s business model only works when his patrons can drive home drunk, it is hard to see the closing as a loss.

posted by: JMS on June 14, 2011  9:01am

Yeah I don’t know why anyone would even raise an eyebrow at the fact that it costs $1600 a day to run any decent sized business anywhere. Rent, employees, utilities, insurance, supplies, etc. Overhead adds up very quickly. The only thing surprising about that figure is that Richter’s has managed to stay open as long as they have during this miserable recession with these kinds of daily operating costs. I have lived in New Haven for my entire life and have somehow managed to never knock back a famous (half) yard at Richters. I don’t really drink much but I suppose I should go down there one night and get it done before they shut down just to have done it.

posted by: robn on June 14, 2011  9:29am

Just curious because I’d like to know why and why not a business survives in this town.

His estimate of $1600/day is 580K/yr.
Rent: If rent is @20 bucks a foot, that cost is probably @ 50K/yr.
Salary: Not counting his own salary which is his profit, not cost, if each of 6 employees make 20K/yr, (but double it for taxes and other overhead) that’s 240K/yr.
Liquor Permit : 2K/yr
Insurance: 20K/yr
F&B Stock : 100K/yr (WAG) (but if your business is down, you’re buying less stock)
HVAC : 30K/yr (WAG)
Total : @440K

That leaves @140K/yr (or 25% of his estimate) unaccounted for. So what am I missing?

posted by: Tracey on June 14, 2011  10:18am

How terribly unfortunate. I loved Richter’s and am sad to see it go.
I hope all the old woodwork will be preserved. It would be a crime to destroy it.

posted by: Scott on June 14, 2011  10:55am

Personally, I think this is the real reason for closing:

>On top of that, vonRabenstein is in the middle of a court battle with his landlord over the rent, which he hasn’t paid since February.

And closing now because they lose money on the summers anyway, so why stay open a couple of months and then close?

posted by: BrownTown on June 14, 2011  12:38pm


It saddens me to see a true establishment shutter its doors, and while it may be a loss for New Haven, it certainly isn’t for me.  Like whatever the New Rudy’s is called, someone else will likely use this great space to run a proper, welcoming bar. 

posted by: Sara on June 14, 2011  12:56pm

What a shame!  I always loved going to Richter’s.  I had my first 1/2 yard of Harp there when I turned 21.

NH elected officials should be embarrassed that they’ve done nothing to promote small business owners in the city.  Instead they’re just as happy to see them falter in this economy.  Add to it that the city is looking to dig deeper into our pockets via midnight meter plan.  How are any businesses surviving downtown?

It’s time to get rid of DeStefano and his crew and bring in elected officials that can lift the city and it’s businesses up.

posted by: JMS on June 15, 2011  4:47am


I don’t know… Advertising? Website?

Promotions? Napkins? Higher utility costs then you are estimating? There is a lot of refrigeration(expensive) cost in keeping beer cold I imagine. Legal services? Book keeping/accounting/payroll services? I am sure with a little more in depth look at this business the difference could be found between your estimates and his numbers. My point is that it’s not hard to imagine and was just wondering why people were nit picking the numbers because they didn’t seem far fetched.

posted by: bill fischer on June 15, 2011  3:41pm

dieter and staff
i am going to miss seeing you all on my weekly sojourn to your paradise
best of luck to all of you for many more years of fine service wherever you may land

posted by: Josh L. on June 20, 2011  2:24pm

Wait a second, is the author implying Christy’s closed because it “succumbed to economic forces and shut its doors”?

And here I was thinking a) plenty of downtown bars are thriving, and b) Christy’s was closed for tax evasion.

But hey, if the author wants to let the Richter’s owner spout off about regulations and midnight meters and how evil government is and ignore the actual facts, then I guess that’s journalism, too.

posted by: Dinty on June 20, 2011  8:41pm

The anti-business climate festers throughout America. Local, state, and federal laws and regulations are thought up by know-it-all do-gooders, enacted by liberal, “I know what’s good for you” politicians and enforced by bureaucrats that have never held, or have been able to hold, a job in the private sector.