Blame on-going construction delays for a re-opening that’s been pushed back repeatedly for nearly a year. Earlier, it was labor disputes that caused at least one NYC restaurant operator to back out of the deal to run the beloved spot in Central Park, which New York City shut down in 2010 in what many New Yorkers – and visitors, too – consider one of the dumbest bureaucratic decisions in recent memory.
Until then, Tavern on the Green – or TOG for short – was the highest grossing restaurant in the world, tucked inside a historic landmark building. It was a money machine, a fantasy of crystal chandeliers, colored glass wall panels, murals, and an outdoor garden decorated with magical animal-shaped topiary and twinkling lanterns, which could host 1,200 people at a time.
But it’s all gone – the building was gutted and everything auctioned off.
The new incarnation of TOG will be half that size, and the new owners, who operate a restaurant and lounge in Philadelphia, promise something that is sleek and sophisticated but more casual than what was.
The photo is what was, when the family of Hollywood royalty Warner LeRoy ran the place for 36 years (he was named for his grandfather Harry Warner, founder of Warner Bros., and the son of director Mervyn LeRoy,whose credits include The Wizard of Oz). This is not a photo of what will be.
The internal renovation was supposed to cost $10 million and take three or four months. It’s been double that, or more. And, the city is late, too, renovating the exterior, including the former garden, now called a courtyard.
NYCOTC can only shake its head over nearly five years of employees not employed, meals not served, and taxes not paid to operate NYC schools, repair aging NYC gas mains and water pipes,run NYC subways and busses, and maintain NYC parks.
When the new version of Tavern on the Green finally opens, the word is it will serve dinner only until it gets organized enough to serve lunch and take-out. Take-out TOG? Sigh.
I wish owners Jim Caiola and David Salama great good luck with this venture. I used to love going to Tavern on the Green, because there was nothing else like it anywhere in the world, which is exactly why it was one of the world’s most famous and most profitable restaurants. This new version sounds to me like the only thing special about it is the location. Central Park is magical, not sleek and sophisticated, and its restaurant should be, too.
According to Crain’s New York Business, the guys from Philly are avoiding hiring members of the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, the union which had represented workers in the old TOG. The new restaurant will not be a union shop, which the guys from Philly say will help keep costs down.
So the city destroyed a legendary and profitable business in a city park, and gives the operation to two businessmen from Philadelphia who won’t hire union workers. What’s wrong with this picture?
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