Tavern on the Green Heckling Begins

Tavern on the Green render
A rendering of the soon to be renovated Tavern on the Green.

Shortly after Tavern on the Green opened as a gift shop in 2010, I walked in to take a look at the fancy touch screen maps and the twenty dollar t-shirts that proudly proclaimed “Tavern on the Green: Since 1934,” and was greeted to a fairly typical New York scene. A woman who lived on the Upper West Side had wandered in to inquire about dinner reservations for Thanksgiving. The Conservancy staff politely informed her that Tavern on the Green was now a gift shop but she scoffed at the and told them they didn’t know what they were talking about. She dropped a few names, probably Danny Meyers, Donald Trump, and a few others and declared that they’d told her things would be running normally again shortly. She stormed out refusing to acknowledge the building’s transformation and declaring that she would make a reservation over the phone.

Even in its absence, everyone seems to feel a certain sense of ownership of Tavern on the Green and New York has always been a city of people who are firmly convinced that whatever is being done, they could do it better. When the city announced its $10 million dollar renovation of the famous restaurant, Donald Trump proudly proclaimed that it would be a failure and nobody would go there. Recently the restaurant, which is slated to reopen at the end of this year has come under fire for being classist, having financial difficulties, unfairly favored above other groups, and for having a poor eye for design.

The new operator, Emerald Green Group’s (originally owners of a French creperie in Philadelphia) rep Steven Hall told the New York Post, “Their backer is not coming up with as much [cash] as they expected, so they are looking for extra funds.” Now every publication in the city is concerned whether the new restaurant will be able to pay the city its licensing fee in addition to, you know, the rest of the fees associated with running a high profile, union restaurant in New York City:

But the problems could hit home when the Philly boys start paying for food, labor and utilities, which can be tens of millions of dollars annually. – “Tavern no green [Exclusive] Cash shortfall could delay eatery’s reopening.” New York Post

Such speculation is rather unwarranted at this point. Particularly since the new Tavern will have significantly less overhead by design thanks to the lessons the city learned from the failing of Warner Leroy’s famed previous establishment. However, it will remain to be seen whether the restaurant group will gain the needed backing. We find it unlikely however that such a prominent and potentially lucrative location will fail to entice backers.

Numerous other groups have taken jabs at Tavern on the Green in past weeks too. Community Board 7 doesn’t like the color of maroon that was selected for Tavern’s awning. Interesting…. where have I seen a maroon awning before? Oh! Wait, that’s right.

Warner Leroy's Tavern on the Green
Warner Leroy’s Tavern on the Green

Yes! The former iteration of Tavern on the Green had a maroon awning also. Perhaps that’s the reason they don’t like it. Community Board 7 has been fighting to change Tavern on the Green from an upscale institution to a casual jeans and t-shirt establishment. The awning will likely remain maroon as it’s now being touted as the original color used in 1934. However the assault from CM7 doesn’t stop there. They feel the separate entrance for cheaper take out entrances (very similar to the one found at The Boathouse restaurant in the center of the park) will have a second class feel to it.

Last but not least, New Yorkers are astounded that a small restaurant group from (gag) Pennsylvania is going to get a shot at the big time. How did it happen? The New York Post again has a theory.

Post City Hall Bureau Chief David Seifman revealed that Salama is the brother-in-law of former Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, a close pal of Mayor Bloomberg and a top executive at Bloomberg LP.

Could it be nepotism? Hmm… City Comptroller John Liu says his office will “investigate.” You never know? Liu’s office revoked the contract of the former Central Park Carousel operator for not keeping up with required maintenance. It’s entirely possible. But if it is true, we’ll probably never find out. At least the menu looks good. Check out our concurrent post with a preview of the new menu for Tavern on the Green.

What do you think? Are things falling apart before they’ve begun? Or are New Yorkers simply always hungry for controversy?

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