Tavern on the Green
|Tavern on the Green|
Main entrance of Tavern on the Green, November 2008
|Head chef||Brian Young|
|Street address||near Central Park West and West 66th Street|
|City||New York (Upper West Side, Manhattan)|
Tavern on the Green is an American cuisine restaurant located in Central Park in Manhattan, New York City, near the intersection of Central Park West at West 66th Street on the Upper West Side. It originally operated from 1934 to 2009 under various owners. From 2010 until 2012, the building was used as a public visitors center and gift shop run by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation, Tavern on the Green reopened as a restaurant on April 24, 2014.
The restaurant in 2007 had gross revenues of $38 million, from more than 500,000 visitors, making it the second-highest-grossing independent restaurant in the United States (behind The Venetian's Tao restaurant in Las Vegas, at $67 million).
The building housing the restaurant was originally the sheepfold that housed the sheep that grazed Sheep Meadow, built to a design by Calvert Vaux in 1870. It became a restaurant as part of a 1934 renovation of the park under Robert Moses, New York City's Commissioner of Parks.
War and post-war: 1930s through 1970s
From 1934, the landmark restaurant was managed by restaurateurs licensed by the City of New York's Park Department. In 1943 Arnold Schleifer and his nephews, Arthur Schleifer and Julius Berman, won the contract to operate the restaurant. During their tenure, the dance floor was enlarged and nightly music was enjoyed. A large outdoor patio offered dining al fresco. Trees were first wrapped in the well-known twinkling lights around the property, and the Elm Tree Room was built to surround one of the city’s classic American elms. The menu was designed to be elegant but affordable for New Yorkers. Luncheon and dinner offerings changed regularly, and Mr. Berman would often add special desserts to celebrate family events, e.g., "Parfait Ruth" to honor the birth of his granddaughter.
The Berman-Schleifer family ran numerous restaurants they owned and other New York City concessions. Among these were the venues at Orchard Beach, the Claremont Inn (1934–1948) in Riverside Park, accessed from Riverside Drive, United Nations Caterers, Manny Wolf’s 49th Street Chop House on Third Avenue, and New York City's first air-conditioned restaurant, Schleifer’s Fashion Center on 7th Avenue.
In 1956, the infamous Battle of Central Park, a scandal instrumental in the eventual downfall of Robert Moses, occurred over Moses' attempt to expand the Tavern's parking lot by half an acre. The event is chronicled in Robert Caro's The Power Broker".
In 1974, Warner LeRoy took over the restaurant's lease and reopened it in 1976 after $10 million in renovations including the addition of a glass enclosed Crystal Room overlooking the restaurant's garden (one of several dining rooms), which doubled the seating capacity to 800. According to city officials it was illegal but the city, wanting the restaurant expanded at a time when the city was having its own financial problems, did not stop the expansion. Since LeRoy's death in 2001, it was managed by his daughter, Jennifer Oz LeRoy, until its renovation in 2009.
Tavern on the Green was frequented by prominent actors, musicians, politicians, and writers. Regular patrons have included former New York City Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, actresses Grace Kelly and Fay Wray and many others. Tavern on the Green hosted the wedding receptions of several prominent Americans, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler and film director Walter Hill. John Lennon was a neighbor to Warner LeRoy and his son, Sean, was a playmate of Warner LeRoy's son, Max LeRoy. As a result, John and Sean celebrated numerous birthdays at Tavern on the Green during the late 1970s.
Troubles, bankruptcy, and rebirth: 1980s to 2000s
In July 1983, a dozen youths leaving a nearby concert robbed patrons and stole a cash register.
Tavern on the Green is next to the finish line of the New York City Marathon. The Barilla Marathon Eve Dinner, a pre-race pasta party on the eve of the marathon for 10,000 guests (including registrants, who attend for free), took place at the Tavern in 2005.
In May 2008, the restaurant and the Westfield Group announced plans to open a second, 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) location in the Metreon mall in downtown San Francisco, California, in summer 2009. The plans had not materialized as of late 2009.
In June 2008, Tavern on the Green agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a sexual and racial discrimination lawsuit over claims by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of "pervasive harassment" of women and minority employees.
On August 28, 2009, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation announced that it had declined to renew the restaurant's license, granting it instead to Dean Poll, operator of the Central Park Boathouse. The LeRoy management was required to cease operations and remove all furnishings from the location before January 1, 2010.
In September 2009, the restaurant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, located in New York City, citing the 2009 national financial crisis and the August 28, 2009 loss of the restaurant's operating license.
The rights to the name of the restaurant became an additional source of contention between the LeRoys and the city of New York during the bankruptcy court procedures in October 2009 after the LeRoys claimed the trademark was theirs while the city challenged them. At the time the trademark was appraised at $19 million. In November 2009, Poll registered a backup name with New York State: Tavern in the Park.
Closure, renovation, and reopening: 2009–14
Tavern on the Green had its last seating on December 31, 2009. It auctioned off its interior decorations and closed its doors after filing for bankruptcy. Central Park Boathouse operator Dean Poll was given rights to reopen the restaurant but could not reach an agreement with the Hotel and Motel Trades Council, affiliated with the AFL–CIO, which represents the employees of the restaurant.
In March 2010, Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, of United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, ruled that the trade name was owned by the City of New York and that Warner LeRoy had trademarked the name "fraudulently" in 1981. She wrote: "Because the undisputed facts show that the city established and continuously maintained a restaurant under the name 'Tavern on the Green' at the same location in New York's Central Park since 1934, the city has a protectable interest in that name."
On October 15, 2010, the city re-opened the building as a visitors information center with a gift shop selling city-themed T-shirts and hats and other memorabilia. Street vendors sold food outside. Adrian Benepe, New York City Parks Commissioner, said at the opening ceremony that the future of the building remains open depending on how well the visitors center does. The glass-enclosed Crystal Room was slated to be demolished in 2010, which was removed that year by the City, exposing the original 19th-century architecture.
In January 2011, Donald Trump said he obtained an agreement from the union employees and that he would invest $20 million in the restaurant, including rebuilding the Crystal Room if he were granted a 20-year lease. He said he would keep the Tavern on the Green name. "I don't think every place needs to be called Trump," he joked. Trump earlier had completed Wollman Rink (and continues to operate it) after the city for several years had been unable to repair and reopen it. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Central Park Conservancy officials did not respond to Trump's proposal.
Later in 2011, the street vendors stationed in Tavern on the Green's courtyard were given notice that their operating contracts wouldn't be renewed. After food truck operators left the site, construction, "basic stabilization and renovation work" according to the city, began on the building. In February 2012, the city hosted a walk around for potential operators of a new Tavern on the Green. The new restaurant was presented as a more casual restaurant than its predecessor and would be housed in a renovated building which reflected its initial design as a sheepfold. There would be no hanging lights in the trees and the restaurant would close at 1:00 am, at the same time the park closes. The winning bidder, Emerald Green Group, previously restaurateurs from Philadelphia, were scheduled to open Tavern on the Green in fall of 2013, though there was speculation the group was having funding issues.
In April 2014, the new owners announced that Tavern on the Green would reopen for dinner on April 24, 2014, followed by a grand opening on May 13, 2014, after which the restaurant began also serving brunch and lunch. Jim Caiola, one of the new managing partners, stated that the tavern's new interior would be more reminiscent of "old New York" than more recent incarnations, featuring dark wood paneling and a more open, bucolic feel. Executive chef Katy Sparks, who had created a new menu for the revived restaurant, resigned in mid-September 2014 to focus on her food consulting business. Caiola and his co-partner David Salama said the parting was amicable and the restaurant would continue offering her menu of "fresh American fare." Tavern on the Green received a satisfactory rating, with no stars, from The New York Times reviewer Pete Wells in June 2014. Other reviews have been "lukewarm to bad," the Times noted in reporting Sparks departure.
Where magazine named Tavern on the Green the best restaurant in the Upper West Side in 2006; it had also been awarded "best ambience" of any New York City restaurant four years earlier, in 2002. In 2003 and 2004, Wine Spectator named the restaurant's wine list its "Best Award of Excellence."
In popular culture
- In the film Ghostbusters, Louis Tully tries to escape from the Terror Dog Vinz Clortho. The patrons of the restaurant stare at him until he is overwhelmed by the Terror Dog that they cannot see, then they carry on with their dining as if nothing happened. This scene is parodied in the episode “Kimmy Is Bad At Math!” on the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
- The restaurant makes an appearance in Wall Street, after Bud Fox has a private meeting with Gordon Gekko in Central Park. Bud is seen entering through the main entrance and then walking through the dining area.
- The 1989 musical Prince of Central Park includes many references to the restaurant including a musical number set there.
- The Tavern featured prominently in the 2011 film Mr. Popper's Penguins, which recreated the defunct restaurant during its heyday. Jim Carrey plays a real estate professional attempting to purchase the restaurant from its owner, played by Angela Lansbury, on behalf of owners who wish to tear it down. The film references Donald Trump's later attempts to buy the restaurant in order to reopen it, and the restaurant's importance to the culture of New York City.
- The Tavern is parodied in two episodes of Futurama, "The Late Philip J. Fry" and "A Leela of Her Own," both which feature the "Cavern on the Green" restaurant in New York City.
- In a 1997 "Seinfeld" episode, "The Susie", the Tavern on the Green is depicted as the venue for a ball hosted by George Steinbrenner, attended by George and Kramer.
- The Tavern on the Green is parodied in the 2014 game The Simpsons: Tapped Out, as "Tavern on the Scream" which is set in Krustyland.
- "Special Report: Top 100 Independents". Restaurants & Institutions.
- Drape, Joe (July 22, 2007). "Setting Restaurant Records by Selling the Sizzle". The New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2007.
- Caro, Robert (1974). The Power Broker. ISBN 0-394-72024-5.
- "Tavern-on-the-Green Sold". The New York Times. April 5, 1962. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
- Central Park: Play: Tavern on the Green
- Cuozzo, Steve (January 31, 2011). "Tavern deal not Crystal Clear". New York Post. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
- Yaniv, Oren (February 3, 2009). "Tavern on the Green in the red". Daily News (New York). Retrieved February 6, 2009.
- "There's No Place Like Tavern on the Green", Page Six Magazine, October 12, 2008
- Brady, Lois Smith (May 7, 1995). "WEDDINGS: VOWS; Robert O. Butler, Elizabeth Dewberry". The New York Times. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
- "Hildy Gottlieb Is the Bride Of Walter Hill, a Director". The New York Times. September 8, 1986. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
- "John Lennon and Yoko Ono celebrate his and Sean's birthdays," This Day in Rock, October 9, 1979.
- Youths attack concert fans
- "Barilla Hosts Marathon Eve Dinner" Archived December 6, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- James Temple (May 6, 2008). "Tavern on the Green coming to the Metreon". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 6, 2008.
- Fabricant, Florence (May 7, 2008). "Off the Menu". The New York Times. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
- J.K. Dineen (May 5, 2008). "N.Y.'s famed Tavern On The Green to open S.F.'s biggest restaurant".
- "NYC's Tavern on the Green plans San Francisco outpost". Nations Restaurant News. May 7, 2008.
- Sajid Farooq (October 14, 2009). "San Francisco's Tavern Chances Are Drying Up". NBC Bay Area.
- Daniel Trotta (June 2, 2008). "Famed NY tavern to pay $2.2 million for discrimination". reuters.
- Collins, Glenn (September 16, 2009). "Why Did Tavern Fail?". The New York Times. p. D1. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
- Collins, Glenn (September 9, 2009). "Tavern on the Green Requesting Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection". The New York Times. Retrieved September 10, 2009.
- Collins, Glenn (October 9, 2009). "City Wants Tavern’s Trademark Name". The New York Times.
- Fickenscher, Lisa. "Back-up name chosen for Tavern on the Green", Crain's New York Business, November 19, 2009. WebCite archive
- Collins, Glenn (December 8, 2009). "Lions and Tigers and Debt: Auctioning Off Tavern on the Green". The New York Times. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
- Glovin, David; Jeffrey, Don (March 10, 2010). "N.Y. City Wins Right to ‘'Tavern on the Green' Name". BusinessWeek. Retrieved June 30, 2010.
- Collins, Glenn (March 10, 2010). "Judge Rules the City Owns the Name Tavern on the Green". The New York Times. Retrieved June 30, 2010.
- Rubinstein, Dana (March 10, 2010). "City Beats LeRoys for 'Tavern on the Green' Name". The New York Observer. Retrieved June 30, 2010.
- Walder, Noeleen G. (March 11, 2010). "Court: Rights to Tavern on the Green Name Belong to New York City". New York Law Journal. Retrieved June 30, 2010.
- "NY's Tavern on the Green reopens as visitor ctr.", AP, October 15, 2010 (video)
- "If Tavern on the Green Reopens, Crystal Room May Go". Grub Street, the New Yorker blog. July 7, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
- Collins, Glenn (July 6, 2013). "Another Round for Tavern on the Green". The New York Times. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
In this scheme, the legendary but boxy Crystal Room would be torn down and rebuilt at the rear of the building, largely out of sight.
- Cuozzo, Steve (November 16, 2013). "Don't Trust Anything on Wikipedia". New York Post. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
- Staff (March 15, 2012). Ross Sandler, Frank Berlen, and Peter Schikler, eds. "Landmarks approved Tavern on the Green’s renovations". City Land, New York Law School's Journal of Land Use Law. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
- Gould, Jennifer (January 27, 2011). "Donald Trump to ask City to allow him to reopen Tavern on the Green". NYPOST.com. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
- "The Return of Tavern on the Green?". September 26, 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
- "Who Will Operate Tavern on the Green?". July 1, 2012. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
- "Tavern on the Green Heckling Begins". March 11, 2013. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
- Stebner, Beth (April 2, 2014). "Tavern on the Green to open April 24 for dinner; to add brunch, lunch in May". Daily News. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
The Central Park mainstay that boarded up New Year's Eve 2009 is slated to reopen two weeks from now. 'There's zero garish about this version, and much more Old New York, says Jim Caiola, one of two managing partners for the property.
- Newman, Maria (12 September 2014). "Tavern on the Green's Chef Leaves, Five Months After Its Reopening". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
- "Awards and Accomplishments" at Tavern on the Green Website.
- Scott, A.O. (June 16, 2011). "A Home Invasion by the Antarcticans". The New York Times.
- Pihl, Tommy (June 14, 2011). "Mr. Popper's Penguins - About the Production". Jim Carrey Online.
- Greydanus, Steven (June 16, 2011). "SDG Reviews 'Mr. Popper's Penguins'". National Catholic Register.
- Tavern on the Green profile and articles at The New York Times.
- "Tavern on the Green preps for final service", Associated Press via Crain's New York Business. WebCitation.org