Competition is King

We were out the other night at Richter’s, oldest bar in New Haven.

Or at least, Richter’s WAS the oldest bar in New Haven until last weekend, when it finally turned those taps on for the last time.

Yeah, Richter’s is closed

The current owner cited financial troubles; the recession, not enough customers, increasing regulation. Too bad really. Good food, good people, great atmosphere.

Inside it’s a time capsule. The walls are covered in ornate wood paneling from the 1850’s. The place used to be the tap room for the Taft Hotel, built in 1911. During Prohibition a nod and a wink might have gotten you past the front door as it continued to operate in secrecy.

So it’s got history. But history ain’t worth a dime if you can’t turn a profit.

And maybe the problem isn’t the economy. Maybe it’s competition. New Haven has seen a resurgence of affordable and upscale dining establishments all over the downtown area.

Similar restaurants like Prime 16 or The Cask Republic (both HIGHLY recommended if you’re looking for a burger and a beer in New Haven) are consistently packed night after night. Their service is top notch and the drink and food variety will get you through the door time and time again. Inside the scene feels fresh and alive.

Meanwhile, at Richter’s – a dusty shelf creaks, one of the regulars coughs.

And no disrespect, I’m certainly going to miss the place, and they’ve got class, baby. If Hemingway or Sinatra sat down, you wouldn’t look twice. They’d fit right in.

But I’m reminded of that old business adage, “If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.” And their marketing strategy doesn’t help very much. Richter’s has zero social media presence, and a website that hasn’t been updated since 2010. If I want to see the specials downtown or get involved with the nightlife, I’m going to Facebook or Twitter. And I’m not going to see anything about Richter’s (I won’t even be thinking about Richter’s at that point).

So anyway, there we were at Richter’s the other night, having a drink or two or four and we get to talking with the table next to ours; with this guy, a local distributor, who’d come to give his fond farewell to the place.

“This place is a terrific,” he said. “Used to come here all the time. Hasn’t changed much.”

“It’s a relic,” I said.

“People don’t come around as much anymore.”

“Don’t hear much about it.”

And later we moved on and talked about travel and music and the clandestine brewing practices of Belgian monks, and when we got up to leave, I told him I’d check his business out on Linkedin. But he didn’t have one, only a Facebook profile that he just deleted.

“Tried it, got rid of it last month.”

Kind of funny after hearing reports that Facebook lost 6 million users in May- and the bloggers and forums flipped and ran around in circles and announced in no uncertain soothsayer terms that Facebook was done for.

Well, I don’t know about THAT but here’s at least one that bit the dust.

“We do things the old fashioned way,” he said and handed me a business card with just his name and office number on it.

“Thanks.”

“Keep in touch,” he said

“I’ll try,”

So anyway, we left and strolled around some more and eventually walked home. I feel there’s probably something poignant to say about living in the past but I’d rather look up all the Social Media updates for the New Haven nightlife this weekend.

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David Clough
David Clough is a writer living in New York City. He is passionate about marketing, human resource thought leadership, and classic American literature. David has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Human Resource Management.