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Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Personal Goodbye To The Tavern On The Green



I want to take a few seconds of your time to remember a great New York Institution, Tavern On The Green in Central Park.
When I heard that Tavern on the Green was in bankruptcy I was very sad because I knew the owner, Werner Leroy see below.. He was quite a character, and somebody that the minute you met him knew he was a Force. What do I mean by a "Force?"? Someone to be reckoned with; Someone who made a difference, and was not Afraid.

Werner Leroy

When I was the producer of the Cue TV magazine on Channel J I went to the opening of Tavern On The Green in 1976 with my camera crew. I saw Andy Warhol, and I asked him if I could videotape him for the camera. I said, "Just one word!" A few minutes later Mr. Warhol said exactly what I asked him: "One".
Nevertheless, Tavern On The Green is an icon, and I hope that the new owners respect the legacy that the 'old' Tavern has in New York City.

January 2, 2010
A Last New Year’s Eve Toast for Tavern on the Green
By GLENN COLLINS

It ended as it all began, in a rush of light. But even the brilliance of its mirrored corridors, twinkling trees and shimmering heirloom chandeliers could not avert the bankruptcy blackout of Tavern on the Green.

And so there was a last waltz. With formidable revelry and not a few tears, some 1,700 New Year’s Eve celebrators paid $125 to $500 a person for the privilege of welcoming 2010 with a last, vast, rollicking hurrah for the landmark restaurant in Central Park.

It shuttered after 4 a.m. Friday for at least six weeks before facing an uncertain future: a new operator, a new d├ęcor and possibly even a new name.

“Obviously there is sadness here, but I think Warner would be very happy about how we finished this,” said Michael Desiderio, Tavern’s chief operating officer, referring to Warner LeRoy, the legendary restaurateur who reinvented it in 1976. “He gave a wonderful gift to New York, so in a way, this is a celebration.”

Shelley Clark, a spokeswoman, said that Jennifer Oz LeRoy, the 30-year-old chief executive of Tavern, was too distraught to attend, explaining that it would have been unseemly “for her to be celebrating when so many people would be out of work.”

Ms. LeRoy presided over the end of her family’s long reign after her father, Mr. LeRoy, died in 2001 at the age of 65. Some 20 million patrons have visited since 1976.

Given the historic import and sheer scope, it was the night’s most prominent celebration, said Andrew Fox, who heads Newyears.com, which hosted more than 40 New York parties on Thursday night.

There were 300 seated partygoers in the restaurant’s Park and Chestnut Rooms, and the remainder of the guests roved among the buffet tables, open bars, disc jockeys, jazz ensembles and strolling guitarists in the Crystal, Rafters and Terrace Rooms. By 10 p.m. every nook, cranny and crevice of Tavern was jammed.

Outside, in the run-up to midnight, an unending sleet-pelted line of limos at Warner LeRoy Place — the official name of the 67th Street extension to Tavern’s front door — delivered guests who queued in a slushy shuffle until they could enter the winter palace.

Inside, wreaths ringed the stained-glass windows. Lasers played on the Waterford chandeliers. Santa stockings dangled from the rafters. And holiday swags swathed the mirrored walls.

The party was a destination for some visitors at the sold-out event. “This is the last night to be part of the history,” said Judy Tucker, who traveled from Houston with her husband, Larry, just for the party because “it was the place to come to.”

Reminiscences were rampant. Anthony J. Micari, 68, and his 66-year-old wife, Maria, recalled their wedding — and reception for 130 — at Tavern on June 4, 1972. “We think it’s the most beautiful place in the world,” he said.

They were happily tucking into their menu of Hudson Valley foie gras, tataki bluefin tuna salad and rack of Colorado lamb.

“This really was the place to celebrate,” said Tony Musich, a retired telecommunications manager whose wife, Mary Ann, was a Tavern regular.

Even Mr. Desiderio shared his Tavern memories: He met his wife, Karen, in the restaurant 13 years ago, and “I grew up here,” he said.

There were, however, first-timers in the crowd. “I can’t believe it’s so big,” said Stephanie Stuart, navigating the corridors with Bob Stoddard, who had asked her out on what she said was “a great New Year’s date.” She had a sense that history was being made, “and in the future,” she said, “I think it will mean something to us that we were here.”

But if Tavern’s flameout was Champagne-rich, the restaurant’s outlook was grim.

In August the city awarded a 20-year license starting in 2010 to a new Tavern operator, Dean J. Poll, who runs the Boathouse restaurant in Central Park. Mr. Poll has yet to sign a contract with Tavern’s landlord, the Department of Parks and Recreation. His lawyer, Barry B. LePatner, said before New Year’s that “we expect to finalize an agreement with the city shortly,” but a key to that accord is a settlement with the powerful Hotel Trades Council, the union that represents some 400 Tavern employees. Negotiations are stalled.

And the restaurant’s vast assemblage of candelabras, samovars, weather vanes, sculptures, murals, prints, lighting fixtures, topiaries and other eccentric assets is to go on the auction block in a three-day sale at the restaurant by Guernsey’s auction house, scheduled to begin Jan. 13.

The assets of Tavern are being aggressively contested in two federal courts as hundreds of butchers, bakers, balloon artists and other purveyors try to keep alive their hopes for repayment. In dispute is even the ownership of its name.

Some Tavern staffers professed optimism despite the tear in the eye. “I fully believe this staff will return,” said Wendy Baranello, a 57-year-old server who has worked the tables at Tavern for 32 years. “We’ve had a good long run, and I think Mr. Poll will make it even longer.”

To another server, Jesus Montesano, the staff of Tavern “is a family,” he said, “and we hope we can keep our family together.”

The name-ownership issue has been a flash point in Tavern’s bankruptcy case because the name — which has been appraised at $19 million — is potentially the restaurant’s most valuable asset.

But early Friday morning, the restaurant still called Tavern on the Green was aglow in its swan song. And as the party-hardy partied on, Tavern on the Green did not go gentle into that good night. “It was about getting this night right,” said Mr. Desiderio, perhaps speaking for all of those who would rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

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