Thursday, December 31, 2009

NY's Tavern on the Green Restaurant Bites the Dust - Yahoo! News

Tavern on the Green, once America's highest-grossing restaurant, is singing its culinary swan song.

The former sheepfold at the edge of Central Park, now ringed by twinkling lights and fake topiary animals, is preparing for New Year's Eve, when it will serve its last meal. Just three years ago, it was plating more than 700,000 meals annually, bringing in more than $38 million.

But that astronomical sum wasn't enough to keep the landmark restaurant out of bankruptcy court. Its $8 million debt is to be covered at an auction of Baccarat and Waterford chandeliers, Tiffany stained glass, a mural depicting Central Park and other over-the-top decor that has bewitched visitors for decades.

Even the restaurant's name is up for grabs. At stake is whether another restaurateur taking over the 27,000 square feet of space, owned by the city, can reopen as Tavern on the Green.

We were there 4 years ago, thanks to Grandpop Pete and Nana; count as among those as fans of the place. I've got pictures somewhere - I've checked my digital files and can't find any of us in the restaurant so the ones we have must've been taken by someone else. Shoot.

But something here doesn't pass the smell test. Sure, there's the usual blame of the recession but to gross $38 million just three years ago and now be forced into Chapter 11 because your debts are $8 million doesn't make much sense. Heck, if I could gross $38 million, I think I'd be able to find a way to keep $8 million worth of creditors happy for a while. But maybe I'm mis-reading this article and others - another article confusedly reports the bankruptcy petition "listed assets and debt in the range of $10 million to $50 million." Well, which is it? Assets or liabilities? $10 million or $50 million.

No, the main culprit seems to be New York City. The LLC that owns TOTG blames NYC for pulling their lease out from under them but in reality their lease had expired and had gone to competitive bidding; they lost. I suspect it was the LLC's inability to service $8 million in debt with $38 million gross more than anything.

Whatever the reason, it's sad to see this icon go by the wayside. Oh, there'll be a new restaurant at the same location but will it be the same or will it have its own sense of style, build its own traditions? Time, as always, will tell.

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