Ithaca, N.Y. — One of the owners of Rulloff’s Restaurant and Bar said in an interview Tuesday that he is not going to explain why the bar suddenly closed.
“I’m not really going to comment on that,” said Jeffrey Mayer, a part owner of the well-known Ithaca bar, in an interview with The Voice.
Rulloff’s told its staff on Monday that the bar would be closed, effective immediately. The employees say they don’t know why the establishment is shuttering its doors, and ownership is not clarifying.
“We’re closed. That’s the end of the story,” Mayer said.
The property that housed Rulloff’s is owned by Student Agencies. Mayer said questions about the future of the space should be directed to them. Student Agencies said Tuesday that they would not be commenting about Rulloff’s.
Rulloff’s called its staff in for a meeting on Monday. The employees say that they didn’t know what the meeting was for until a man many of them had never met before delivered the news.
“We had no idea it was coming: Everyone was mortified,” said Sherry Newby, who had worked at the bar for almost a year.
Workers at Rulloff’s aren’t the only ones angered by the closing. Cornell alumni and students, for instance, posted statuses on Twitter and Facebook bemoaning the news.
— Peter Jacobs (@peterajacobs) September 1, 2014
Ithaca officials also expressed regret at the closing.
“It’s obviously disappointing: That was a neighborhood institution,” said Common Council member Graham Kerslick, whose ward includes Collegetown.
Kerslick said he didn’t know the specifics of what had happened with Rulloff’s. He did say, however, that he hopes a new zoning policy recently passed by the city will encourage and support new businesses by increasing the number of available commercial spaces in Collegetown.
While it’s unclear what caused Rulloff’s to close, a 2013 article in the Cornell Daily Sun examined what the newspaper termed a rise in commercial vacancies in Collegetown:
“Landlords and tenants agree: commercial vacancies in Collegetown are on the rise. But there is no such consensus among parties on the reasons behind the increase.
While landlords blame national economic trends, city politics and business practices for vacancy, tenants accuse landlords of charging excessively high rent prices and having lease agreements that Chuck Cooley, owner of Classic Optical on Dryden Road, called “hostile.”
“If people are going out of business, the question is, what’s driving them out?” Cooley said. “Is it a poor business model, or are franchise fees too high, or is it the person who talked them into the lease who said there’d be more foot traffic than there is? There’s a ton of different things that go into it.” …
The story says that many commercial tenants are faced with $2,000 in monthly rent. Mayer, the part owner, didn’t give the rent at Rulloff’s. (A real estate listing gives its for sale price as $395,000.)
Whatever caused it, Rulloff’s closure has cost about 30 people their jobs, according to Newby, the server.
Four former Rulloff’s employees have now told The Voice that they are furious there was not prior notice of the bar’s closure.
Mayer was asked if he thought the bar’s former employees were right to criticize its owners for not letting them know ahead of time.
“No comment,” he said.