TAVERN ON THE GREEN: FROM CHEESY TO CHEAP?

Make no mistake about it: the old Tavern on the Green was cheesy, garish, over-the-top. The service and food were regularly criticized.

But the place made a ton of money. In fact, its owners said it was the highest-grossing restaurant in the country, with annual revenues of $34 million. And if you ever saw the tourists digging into the filet mignon there it wasn’t hard to believe.

In August 2009 the city ended up choosing a new restaurateur — Central Park Boathouse owner Dean Poll — to take over the restaurant from the LeRoy family that had run Tavern for more than 30 years. That decision, along with a labor dispute, forced the family to file for bankruptcy in 2009. Poll himself couldn’t come to terms with the union representing the Tavern workers, so the city turned it into a visitor’s center and a parking lot for food trucks.

This week, City Comptroller John Liu said that the city lost out on $2.2 million by letting the restaurant sit empty while the labor negotiations dragged on.

Frankly, turning Tavern (just off of Central Park West at 67th Street) into a visitor’s center was a little odd, and the food trucks were clearly not generating the same kind of revenue for the park as the old restaurant. So now the city is hoping to put a new restaurant in. Upper East Siders, represented by Community Board 8, want it to resemble the old Tavern on the Green — formal, upscale, white tablecloths. Upper West Siders, as represented by Community Board 7, want it to be downscale — open even to people who come in in sweatpants from a jog outside, as reported this week by DNAinfo.

Clearly, all the old stereotypes about Upper East Siders and Upper West Siders are holding up quite nicely.

In 99.9% of all cases, I would vote with the Upper West Side over the Upper East Side. But, although it might make me nauseous to say this, I kind of think the Upper East Snobbers Siders are right. There are plenty of casual places to eat in the neighborhood and in the park, including a nice cafe near Sheep Meadow run by Le Pain Quotidien. Tavern on the Green has made tons of money for the park as a high-end eatery for decades. It’s time to start making money there again.

Bring on the white tablecloths!

Bring on the Tiffany lamps!

Bring on the weird gold cow’s heads they had at the old Tavern on the Green.

Let’s put the “Green” back in Tavern on the Green. Let’s feed those tourists filet mignon so tough their dentures fall out.

Am I wrong? Let us know your thoughts by voting in the poll below:

The city wants to reopen Tavern on the Green. What should the atmosphere at the new restaurant be?

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Photo of a hallway in the old Tavern by rufusowliebat via flickr.

    1. arparp says:

      Why not upscale in price and food but relaxed in atmosphere and dress? Think Breslin or a nice resort lodge.

    2. Mefein says:

      Bring out the white tablecloths for dinner, but have a more casual lunch service/menu. Also, like the Boathouse, breakfast/lunch can be divided into a seated section and a pick-up-and-seat-yourself section with more casual food. Just modernize the menu. There are no tourists under the age of 80 who believe that filet mignon is the last word in classy food. They watch Food Network too!

    3. E.Morales says:

      Why can’t it be both? Have the outside section be a more casual eatery while inside can once again become the formal restaurant we New Yorkers want.

    4. Rachel K says:

      I am an UWSer and I vote for upscale, but almost more importantly I would like to see an improvement to the bar area. The bar should be moved to a part of the restaurant with a view of the park or the outdoor area of the restaurant and it should actually offer draft beer. Historically it has been pointless to just go there for a drink since the bar is small and cramped, basically like a small closet/attic.

    5. aenson says:

      It was always upscale and there was never a dress code at Tavern. I don’t miss the food…it’s about time that Tavern had a decent chef…we haven’t had one in years, maybe ever! But I so miss that decadence! More importantly, I miss the dancing on the summer nights, the outside bar on the terrace, the swing dancing, even country! It was amazing! I miss the bar upstairs, the different opulent rooms downstairs. I miss the white lights that adorned the trees and the entrance. How I miss our Tavern!