The eagerly awaited reopening of Tavern on the Green has been delayed once again, and will not be open in time for Christmas or New Year’s celebrations. Blame construction delays, not the 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 ofcrystal 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 will be half that size, and the new owners, who operate a restaurant and lounge in Philadelphia, promise something sleek and sophisticated. 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. Double that. And, the city is late, too, renovating the exterior, including former garden, now called a courtyard. Can you add the missed earnings from thousands holiday meals not served to the cost of opening? And the taxes NYC did not get?
The new version of Tavern on the Green is now scheduled to open in late January, just after millions of tourists who flocked to NYC for the holidays have gone home. And 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 restaurant is now advertising jobs on Craigslist. The guys from Philly are avoiding the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council the union which had represented the former workers. The new restaurant will not be a union shop, which the guys from Philly say will help keep costs down.
So the city effectively destroys a 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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