The Rainbow Room
|Head chef||Robert Aikens|
|Food type||Classic and contemporary American|
|Street address||30 Rockefeller Plaza|
|City||New York City|
Opened in 1934, it was the first restaurant to be located in a high-rise building and remained the highest elevated restaurant in the United States for decades. Suffering from a decline in business following the financial crisis of 2007–08, the restaurant closed in 2009. In 2012, it was declared a New York City landmark by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission. On September 17, 2013, it was announced that the Rainbow Room would reopen in fall 2014 after undergoing a full restoration along with a new executive chef and management team. After a years-long restoration process by Gabellini Sheppard Associates, it reopened to the public on October 5, 2014, with new owner-operator Tishman Speyer and Chef Jonathan Wright at the helm. The renovation includes the landmarked dance floor and a new cocktail lounge called SixtyFive.
The Rainbow Room was originally designed by architect Wallace K. Harrison of Associated Architects and interior designer Elena Bachman-Schmidt in 1934. Supposedly inspired by French architect Jacques Carlu Round Room, the Rainbow Room draws its inspiration from the Round Room in the Carlu, his design for a restaurant in Toronto. Designed in a simplified classical style, The Rainbow Room featured a revolving dance floor, a live big band orchestra, and a view of the New York City skyline. Private events were hosted in several banquet rooms on the floor below. Culinarily, The Rainbow Room has focused on Modern American cuisine.
On the same floor of the GE building was The Rainbow Grill, a separate, somewhat less expensive restaurant that had an à la carte menu and its own celebrations on major holidays.
The Rainbow Room first opened on October 3, 1934, and was originally conceived as a formal supper club, where the elite and influential of New York could gather to socialize over cocktails, dine on fine cuisine, and dance to the strains of legendary Barry Winton's Orchestra (Band) on a revolving floor.
Facing competition from other upscale restaurants in New York including the Equitable Center and Battery Park City, the restaurant was closed for nearly two years beginning in 1985 as it underwent a $25 million restoration and expansion to 45,000 square feet (4,200 m2). David Rockefeller, the son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., commissioned the restoration, led by Joe Baum, Arthur Emil, and architect Hugh Hardy.
In 1988, Phil Donahue presented a special from the Rainbow Room, honoring Mary Martin, with Steve Leeds leading the Rainbow Room Orchestra, and guest vocalists Michael Feinstein, and Nancy Wilson. Bandleader Leeds sang the final number "Isn't it romantic".
In 1998, the Rockefeller family passed operations of the facilities of the restaurant over to the Italian Cipriani S.A. family, founders of the renowned Harry's Bar in Venice, as well as several other restaurants in New York City.
The Ciprianis extensively remodeled the grill and fired all union workers. In 2003 Michael DiLeonardo, an associate of Peter Gotti, turned state's evidence against the accused mobster. In his testimony DiLeonardo said the Ciprianis gave $120,000 to the Gambino crime family to make union problems at the Rainbow Room disappear. The charges were never confirmed.
On New Year's Eve, the price of admission included caviar, truffles, champagne, and mixed drinks, and access to the Rainbow Room from dinner through breakfast the next morning. Admission to the 2007 New Year's Eve party was $1600.00 per person.
In 2008, the Cipriani company filed a brief with the City of New York, requesting that the Rainbow Room be designated a historic landmark. The designation would prevent the Rainbow Room from being converted into office space.
In 2009 the Ciprianis announced that they planned to close the grill although part would remain open as a bar and banquet hall. The Ciprianis' chief operating officer blamed "the current economic crisis in New York and around the world, on top of an ongoing dispute with our landlord." Tishman Speyer said it intended to evict the Ciprianis unless they paid back rent. The two sides settled the dispute, with the Ciprianis' agreeing to give up possession of the restaurant and banquet hall on August 1, 2009. The last night of dancing at the former hot spot took place on June 5, 2009, and the Grill closed its kitchen on Father's Day, June 21, 2009.
As of mid-2011, it was announced that work had begun on remodeling the restaurant for its reopening. On October 16, 2012, the Rainbow Room was declared a New York City landmark by the New York Landmarks Commission. After a five-year hiatus, it reopened on October 5, 2014.
In popular culture
- In its heyday, the Rainbow Room was a place to see and be seen. Actress Joan Crawford made her last public appearance at the Rainbow Room at a party honoring Rosalind Russell.
- In Woody Allen's 2001 film The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, the plot is set in motion when the characters played by Allen and Helen Hunt are hypnotized by a magician performing at the Rainbow Room.
- In Prince of Tides the protagonists spend their last hours of being together in the Rainbow Room.
- The Rainbow Room is often mentioned in the popular sitcom Friends, as when one of the characters is planning to go somewhere fancy. One example is the episode "The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break": Phoebe is dating a diplomat, and Monica begins dating his translator, who says "Would you like me to escort you to the Rainbow Room? I have diplomatic coupons."
- The Rainbow Room is mentioned in the Seinfeld episode "The Checks", when Kramer takes his Japanese friends dancing there and discovers a "slight monetary discrepancy regarding the bill."
- In the series Will & Grace, the characters frequently attend family meals or birthday events at the Rainbow Room. For example, during "Cheating Trouble Blues", Will, Jack, Grace, and Karen meet to celebrate Mr. and Mrs. Truman's wedding anniversary. The episode contains an ongoing joke that references the restaurant's location on a high floor; Karen is frightened of elevators, so she and Jack begin to climb the stairs, only to realize later that they have left the cake on a lower floor.
- In the sitcom The Nanny ("Oy Vey, You're Gay") the Rainbow Room is discussed as where Maxwell is going to proclaim his love to his publicist, Sydney Mercer. Instead Max and Fran get stuck in the elevator in which it is revealed that his publicist is gay. It is also mentioned in the season five episode, "The Engagement", where Maxwell had originally intended to propose to Fran. The former, however, got mugged so Fran, Maxwell, and their families were unable to go there for their intended dinner.
- The Rainbow Room is mentioned and shown briefly in the King of the Hill episode "Yankee Hankee", which explores how character Hank Hill was born in New York City.
- In a particularly memorable broadcast of The Howard Stern Show, it was revealed that Fred Norris had a fight with his wife Allison at the Rainbow Room.
- In the film Sleepless in Seattle, The Rainbow Room was used as the venue for Meg Ryan and Bill Pullman's date.
- In his memoir, Kitchen Confidential, chef Anthony Bourdain wrote an entire chapter ("I Make My Bones") about his year and a half in the kitchen staff of the Rainbow Room, describing in detail – both good and bad – the working conditions in an extremely famous and busy restaurant and the numerous dealings normally kept invisible behind the kitchen doors.
- J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, mentions the Rainbow Room in his short story "A Girl I Knew".
- Hall and Oates refer to the Rainbow Room in "Bad Habits and Infections", a song from their 1977 album Beauty on a Back Street:
Maybe you'll find a friend up in the Rainbow Room
If you can dodge the drinks
That they've been throwing at you
- In the series Mad About You, Jaimie thanks the billionaire Freddie Statler for renting the entire Rainbow Room just for them.
- "Rainbow Room - New York | Restaurant Review". Zagat. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
- Associated Press (September 17, 2013). "Rainbow Room At Rockefeller Center To Reopen Next Year". CBS New York. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
- "Rockefeller Center's iconic Rainbow Room to reopen in fall 2014". Daily News (New York).
- Fabricant, Florence. "A New York Classic Returns".
- Bloomberg News (September 16, 2014). "The New, Reimagined Rainbow Room Is High Tech, Familiar".
- "The Rainbow Room « CityLand".
- "THE CREATIVE EYE".
- Archive Doors Open Toronto 2007: Carlu Toronto. 2007
- Giovannini, Joseph (August 7, 1987). "Rainbow Room: Re-creating the Glamour". New York Times. Retrieved November 3, 2012.
- Staff Writer (2014). "Rare and hard to Find Titles". Phil Donahue Show, The (1970) TV series 1970–1996. tvrepeater.com. Retrieved February 3, 2014.
- Staff Writer (2014). "Premiere Opera". DVD 11086 MARY MARTIN MEMORIES: DISC 2. Opera CD's. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
- Morgenson, Gretchen; Bagli, Charles V. (August 1, 2007). "Father and Son Restaurateurs in New York City Plead Guilty to Tax Evasion – New York Times – August 1, 2007". Nytimes.com. Retrieved May 11, 2012.
- Venezia, Todd (January 3, 2009). "RAINBOW ROOM WILL SHUT EATERY -New York Post – January 3, 2009". Nypost.com. Retrieved May 11, 2012.
- New York Times article about the Cipriani family and desire to designate Rainbow Room a Historic Landmark
- Rainbow Room’s Lease Terminated – New York Times – January 9, 2009
- Carmiel, Oshrat (February 5, 2009). "Cipriani Dining Empire Loses BlackRock, Rainbow Room". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved May 11, 2012.
- "The Rainbow Room Fades Away". Zagat.com. June 5, 2009.
- Marx, Rebecca (July 11, 2011). "Somebody Is Finally Paying Attention to the Rainbow Room – New York Restaurants and Dining – Fork in the Road". Blogs.villagevoice.com. Retrieved May 11, 2012.
- "Rainbow Room". Rainbow Room. Retrieved May 11, 2012.
- "Rainbow Room reopens at top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza after five years". New York. Associated Press. Retrieved 2014-03-10.
- "A Girl I Knew" - Good Housekeeping – February 1948 Archived October 28, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.