1990: L.S. Ayres announces closure of its iconic Tea Room

Posted at 5:00 AM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 05:00:54-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The beginning of the end of the Tea Room at L.S. Ayres came in November 1990, when the company announced the restaurant would close permanently the following month.

The Tea Room was a downtown staple for more than 85 years often frequented by families during the holiday season.

The original Tea Room opened on the fifth floor of the L.S. Ayres building in 1929. It was moved to the eighth floor in 1929. The Tea Room was a place to go to enjoy a formal dining experience.

That was until business began to cool in the late 1980s.

News of the pending closure spread quickly when it was announced on Nov. 7, 1990.

Several supporters staged a protest under the clock at Ayres the following week.

Former WRTV Linda Lupear spoke with supporters who gathered petitions to save the Tea Room.

“We’re real upset that the Tea Room is leaving,” one woman said. “We have a lot of people in our office building that come there, that go there to eat every day. We’re really going to miss it.”

Another woman recalled her memories of the Tea Room.

“It would be a shame," she said. "Sometimes our family has gotten together for the holidays and special occasions at the Tea Room, and it’s something that I’ll always remember.”

Still, there were some that were determined to spend as much time as they could at the Tea Room.

“Right now I have called up about four other people, and I’m having lunch at the Tea Room about once a week now, so I’ll pack it in as much as I can.”

L.S. Ayres closed the Tea Room on Dec. 31, 1990.

The contents of the restaurant went up for auction the following year.

Former WRTV consumer reporter Barbara Boyd spoke with a woman who was the winner of several recipe cards on March 13, 1991.

“I cook a lot,” Anna Muesing said. “I collect cookbooks, and I worked at Ayres. That is why I wanted the recipes and I’m going to break them down and use them.”

Others came to enjoy one last bit of nostalgia.

“I hate to see it go. We’re losing so much of our old things and this is the last one.”

“My mother used to take my brother and I there every Christmas and several times through the year and we would always eat at Ayres Tea Room.”

You can still get a taste of the original L. S. Ayres Tea Room in a re-creation of the restaurant at the Indiana State Museum.