Bye Bye BurgerFi: Vassar’s Local Burger Restaurant Closes Permanently

Photo Credit: Henryk Kessel ’25

In late September, I received an unexpected text in my fellow group’s messenger group chat. A friend of mine sent a picture of a sign, a standard piece of copy paper enclosed in a clear sheet protector, with the Burgerfi logo on the bottom of the page. Clear black text was displayed on the top. “As of 9/29/2021, our Poughkeepsie location will be permanently closed,” it read. 

Somber texts and mournful messages followed suit, along with a series of questions. When did this happen? What would replace it? Does permanently really mean forever? But most importantly, everyone wondered: Why did Burgerfi close?

I decided to find out myself. While the number for the restaurant’s Poughkeepsie location is easily obtainable online, I soon realized—to my dismay—that Burgerfi is no longer answering calls. The voicemail response is automated and short, directing customers to order from the Burgerfi website or mobile app instead. Although callers are provided with the opportunity to speak to a restaurant manager if they press three, the line swiftly disconnects after 20 seconds. 

When primary sources fail you, Google is always a handy second option. According to Hudson Valley Post, they attempted to reach out to the Poughkeepsie Burgerfi earlier this month as well. They also discovered that its number was not in service. Similarly, the location deactivated its Facebook page, preventing customers and media from contacting them through that outlet. It seems as if Burgerfi does not want people to solve the mystery of its sudden closing.

Failing to issue a response in regards to their closing is characteristic of the chain restaurant. In response to COVID-19, the Poughkeepsie location temporarily shut down in March 2020, along with several other restaurants in Arlington and the Hudson Valley. While these other establishments soon made announcements concerning their reopening for takeout and outdoor dining, Burgerfi remained silent. They stopped communicating on their Facebook page and their website removed Poughkeepsie as one of their locations. WPDH, a Poughkeepsie radio station, even reported that the company’s main offices did not respond to their calls. 

“I was pretty upset when they closed the first time,” said Ibrahim Waheed ’25, a longtime Poughkeepsie resident who has been grabbing cheeseburgers after soccer games since the restaurant opened in 2014. His fears that Burgerfi would not reopen due to the effects of COVID-19 were ameliorated only in September 2020, when, in response to the WPDH article, they released a statement saying: “Poughkeepsie and the Vassar College communities are very important to BurgerFi and the company is working closely with Vassar College to reopen this Fall.” However, the burger chain didn’t reopen until four months later in January 2021. And now, even with constant contact from local news outlets, the eatery has not issued a statement concerning its closure. It seems that permanently may truly mean forever.

The answer to the mystery behind this closure does not lie within the quality of the chain restaurant’s food—in fact, this simply adds to the confusion. Since its opening in 2014, the Raymond Avenue burger joint has received the title of “Best Burger” in the Hudson Valley several times. Their elaborate menu containing everything from Wagyu Beef burgers to a unique quinoa VegeFi® Burger garnered plentiful service from those at Vassar College, whose meals perpetually consist of dining hall food. 

Waheed, known as Burgerfi’s biggest fan among his friends, found that the joint’s eating options provided a pleasant break from his routine Deece diet. Although he went through “eras” of favorite items on the menu, his most recent was the spicy chicken sandwich. “It has an interesting flavor profile,” he said. “It was fresh, and the spicy jalapeno honey was an interesting choice. It’s been weeks since I had one, and I can’t really remember what it tastes like—but I do remember the way it made me feel.” He had even convinced one of his professors to order one for his son. “Joey liked the chicken sandwich, and the self service soda machine,” said Professor of Chemistry Joseph Tanski. “I liked that all of the sandwiches were prepared to order so they were easy to customize.”

With all of this glowing recognition from both professors and students alike, it is both a startling surprise and severe disappointment that the burger chain has closed for good. Several students have created special memories here, especially first-years who are in the process of finding spaces outside of campus to enjoy themselves. “BurgerFi was a staple for me and my friends,” said Tova Gelb ’25. “It is one of my first college memories. It was somewhere where we could go and laugh, eat a good meal and have fun,” she said. 

While the Poughkeepsie Burgerfi did not explicitly release information surrounding its closure, several underlying reasons come to the minds of those who examine the restaurant’s situation. Not only did the business suffer from the effects of COVID-19, but it is around the corner from a college campus, the dining hall of which has unlimited meal swipes and an ever-present burger bar. Unlike many of the other eateries along Raymond Avenue, Burgerfi is a chain restaurant, and in the end, shutting it down may have simply been the most profitable option. 

While the business’s lack of response and the abruptness surrounding its closing stitch together a mystery, the threads of which seem impossible to unravel, the explanation may plainly be that Vassar students do not venture outside of their campus bubble enough. In fact, in the Poughkeepsie Burgerfi’s 2020 statement, they had stated they were closed for an extended period of time, both due to “effects of COVID-19 pandemic” and “additional circumstances that are unique to this location and its relationship with Vassar College.” Burgerfi is one of over 70 establishments that have left the Hudson Valley recently, and while COVID-19 was an immense influence, their proximity to Vassar could possibly be a factor as well. While we lost Burgerfi, we can take this as a learning opportunity to explore outside of campus as a way to cultivate and support the community that hosts our four years at Vassar. 

 CIn late September, I received an unexpected text in my fellow group’s messenger group chat. A friend of mine sent a picture of a sign, a standard piece of copy paper enclosed in a clear sheet protector, with the Burgerfi logo on the bottom of the page. Clear black text was displayed on the top. “As of 9/29/2021, our Poughkeepsie location will be permanently closed,” it read. 

Somber texts and mournful messages followed suit, along with a series of questions. When did this happenWhat would replace it? Does permanently really mean forever? But most importantly, everyone wondered: Why did Burgerfi close?

I decided to find out myself. While the number for the restaurant’s Poughkeepsie location is easily obtainable online, I soon realized—to my dismay—that Burgerfi is no longer answering calls. The voicemail response is automated and short, directing customers to order from the Burgerfi website or mobile app instead. Although callers are provided with the opportunity to speak to a restaurant manager if they press three, the line swiftly disconnects after 20 seconds. 

When primary sources fail you, Google is always a handy second option. According to Hudson Valley Post, they attempted to reach out to the Poughkeepsie Burgerfi earlier this month as well. They also discovered that its number was not in service. Similarly, the location deactivated its Facebook page, preventing customers and media from contacting them through that outlet. It seems as if Burgerfi does not want people to solve the mystery of its sudden closing.

Failing to issue a response in regards to their closing is characteristic of the chain restaurant. In response to COVID-19, the Poughkeepsie location temporarily shut down in March 2020, along with several other restaurants in Arlington and the Hudson Valley. While these other establishments soon made announcements concerning their reopening for takeout and outdoor dining, Burgerfi remained silent. They stopped communicating on their Facebook page and their website removed Poughkeepsie as one of their locations. WPDH, a Poughkeepsie radio station, even reported that the company’s main offices did not respond to their calls. 

“I was pretty upset when they closed the first time,” said Ibrahim Waheed ’25, a longtime Poughkeepsie resident who has been grabbing cheeseburgers after soccer games since the restaurant opened in 2014. His fears that Burgerfi would not reopen due to the effects of COVID-19 were ameliorated only in September 2020, when, in response to the WPDH article, they released a statement saying: “Poughkeepsie and the Vassar College communities are very important to BurgerFi and the company is working closely with Vassar College to reopen this Fall.” However, the burger chain didn’t reopen until four months later in January 2021. And now, even with constant contact from local news outlets, the eatery has not issued a statement concerning its closure. It seems that permanently may truly mean forever.

The answer to the mystery behind this closure does not lie within the quality of the chain restaurant’s food—in fact, this simply adds to the confusion. Since its opening in 2014, the Raymond Avenue burger joint has received the title of “Best Burger” in the Hudson Valley several times. Their elaborate menu containing everything from Wagyu Beef burgers to a unique quinoa VegeFi® Burger garnered plentiful service from those at Vassar College, whose meals perpetually consist of dining hall food. 

Waheed, known as Burgerfi’s biggest fan among his friends, found that the joint’s eating options provided a pleasant break from his routine Deece diet. Although he went through “eras” of favorite items on the menu, his most recent was the spicy chicken sandwich. “It has an interesting flavor profile,” he said. “It was fresh, and the spicy jalapeno honey was an interesting choice. It’s been weeks since I had one, and I can’t really remember what it tastes like—but I do remember the way it made me feel.” He had even convinced one of his professors to order one for his son. “Joey liked the chicken sandwich, and the self service soda machine,” said Professor of Chemistry Joseph Tanski. “I liked that all of the sandwiches were prepared to order so they were easy to customize.”

With all of this glowing recognition from both professors and students alike, it is both a startling surprise and severe disappointment that the burger chain has closed for good. Several students have created special memories here, especially first-years who are in the process of finding spaces outside of campus to enjoy themselves. “BurgerFi was a staple for me and my friends,” said Tova Gelb ’25. “It is one of my first college memories. It was somewhere where we could go and laugh, eat a good meal and have fun,” she said. 

While the Poughkeepsie Burgerfi did not explicitly release information surrounding its closure, several underlying reasons come to the minds of those who examine the restaurant’s situation. Not only did the business suffer from the effects of COVID-19, but it is around the corner from a college campus, the dining hall of which has unlimited meal swipes and an ever-present burger bar. Unlike many of the other eateries along Raymond Avenue, Burgerfi is a chain restaurant, and in the end, shutting it down may have simply been the most profitable option. 

While the business’s lack of response and the abruptness surrounding its closing stitch together a mystery, the threads of which seem impossible to unravel, the explanation may plainly be that Vassar students do not venture outside of their campus bubble enough. In fact, in the Poughkeepsie Burgerfi’s 2020 statement, they had stated they were closed for an extended period of time, both due to “effects of COVID-19 pandemic” and “additional circumstances that are unique to this location and its relationship with Vassar College.” Burgerfi is one of over 70 establishments that have left the Hudson Valley recently, and while COVID-19 was an immense influence, their proximity to Vassar could possibly be a factor as well. While we lost Burgerfi, we can take this as a learning opportunity to explore outside of campus as a way to cultivate and support the community that hosts our four years at Vassar. 

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