Tavern on the Green took its first step to becoming an actual restaurant once again, as the city chose a Philadelphia company to run the historic spot, it announced today.
The Emerald Green Group and chef Katy Sparks are expected to open the restaurant in the fall of 2013. Sparks has worked at The Quilted Giraffe and Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, and her website says she grew up on a small farm in Vermont.
“[H]er menu will draw extensively on local farms and products: squid from Montauk, foie gras from the Hudson Valley and chocolate made by the Mast Brothers of Brooklyn,” the New York Times reported.
The city says the new restaurant will be smaller than the old Tavern, whose historic Crystal Room was torn down. It will “honor the original design intent of the Olmsted and Vaux park plan and exist in harmony with its naturalistic park setting.” But, as our readers know, the city proposed putting a big glass box in the courtyard that will house an outdoor cafe (left). Not sure if Olmsted and Vaux would have envisioned that.
The new restaurant, unlike the part-charming-part-cheesy old one, is meant to appeal to folks from the neighborhood, not just tourists.
“The City felt the time was right for a fresh take on a dining establishment with a focus on serving visitors to the park and the surrounding community in a historic building, rather than formal dining and catering. The new Tavern on the Green is envisioned as a neighborhood destination that will act in harmony with its natural park environs.”
The owners have agreed to bargaining terms with the union representing the restaurant workers; union fights scuttled the city’s last attempt to get the restaurant up and running again.
BusinessWeek got the financial terms:
“The deal, if approved by the city’s Franchise Concession and Review Committee in September, will provide a 20-year operating agreement in which Emerald Green would pay the city the larger amount of either $1 million or 6 percent of gross receipts for the first year, with the terms gradually escalating to $1 million or 15 percent of gross receipts, whichever is more, said Phil Abramson, a spokesman for the Parks Department.”
Tavern hasn’t been operating since a last blowout bash on New Year’s Eve in 2009. Since then it’s been a visitor’s center and a parking lot for some food trucks.
The whole press release is below. It’s got some interesting history. And at the very bottom of the post is a photo of the courtyard at Tavern in 1937, from the municipal archives.
“Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe today announced that the City is prepared to award a 20-year license term to the Emerald Green Group for the operation and maintenance of a high-quality casual restaurant and outdoor café at Tavern on the Green located in Central Park just west of the Sheep Meadow near 67th Street. The Emerald Green Group principals, Jim Caiola and David Salama, have operated Beau Monde and L’Etage in Philadelphia, a popular and well-reviewed restaurant & bar, for over a decade. Katy Sparks, their executive chef for Tavern on the Green, has extensive NYC experience including The Quilted Giraffe, Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and Bolo, and Quilty’s in Soho where she earned many accolades including being chosen as a “Top Ten Best New Chef in America” by Food & Wine Magazine.
The Emerald Green Group submitted the highest rated proposal in response to a Request for Proposals, the City’s process for selecting a concessionaire. They provided a detailed operational plan for Tavern on the Green as an attractive high-quality accessible venue with a locally-sourced menu and a focus on the park. It will include outdoor seating for 200-300 patrons as well as take-out service. Subject to the successful completion of contract negotiations and other required review and approvals, and the completion of the building’s restoration work, Tavern on the Green is anticipated to reopen in the Fall of 2013. The Emerald Green Group has also signed a letter of agreement with the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO, which provides the terms under which union representation and bargaining will be addressed.
The Central Park Conservancy has invested more than $600 million to enhance, repair and maintain the Park’s 843 acres, attracting more than 40 million visitors annually and making it the most visited park in the United States. The tremendous popularity of Central Park has created a need for more services and amenities for the park user. The City felt the time was right for a fresh take on a dining establishment with a focus on serving visitors to the park and the surrounding community in a historic building, rather than formal dining and catering. The new Tavern on the Green is envisioned as a neighborhood destination that will act in harmony with its natural park environs.
“We are pleased to select the Emerald Green Group as the new operator of Tavern on the Green,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “They have done an outstanding job with Beau Monde in Philadelphia and their vision for the iconic Tavern on the Green will create a casual restaurant and outdoor café that everyday park goers, neighbors and visitors can enjoy. The result will be a destination that will attract and delight all park patrons, and bring new life back to a site that has provided dining in the park for 75 years.”
“Years ago, when Central Park was far less popular than it is now, an evening cab ride to Tavern on the Green for dinner was the only time many would set foot in the Park,” said Doug Blonsky, President and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy. “After more than three decades of Conservancy restoration and maintenance, Central Park offers a beautiful escape from the stresses of city life. The addition of an expertly-run restaurant in an iconic building will enhance the Park experience enjoyed by tens of millions of people every year.”
“Tavern on the Green is one of the most amazing places in the world,” said co-owner of the Emerald Green Group Jim Caiola. “When I lived in New York in the early 80s, I celebrated many milestones at Tavern on the Green. I’d look around and feel the magic of celebration, and I knew that one day I would be back. David, Katy and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to create the magic again in a new and fresh environment that re-focuses the experience. I‘ve known Katy since the early 80s and have nothing but respect for her innovative, focused, and immense love for food.”
“When Jim and I decided to open our first restaurant, I took the opportunity to turn all my passion for interior design, love of food, and entertaining into one single project. It was incredibly gratifying to see all my creative juices flow into one single direction,” said co-owner of the Emerald Green Group David Salama. “As an artist and craftsman, I love the design and building process. Having the opportunity to do it at Tavern on the Green is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
In 2006, Katy Sparks established Katy Sparks Culinary Consulting, which grew into a business of bringing local sustainable and seasonal cuisine to businesses. Katy said, “The timing is perfect, Tavern on the Green is an offer that one just doesn’t refuse. It’s the one project I can think of that would lure me into leading a kitchen again.”
At Tavern on the Green, the Emerald Green Group will develop a casual restaurant and bar, and outdoor café, that will honor the original design intent of the Olmsted and Vaux park plan and exist in harmony with its naturalistic park setting. The building is currently being restored by the City to a smaller, more historic footprint. The City is performing significant structural and exterior work, allowing the Emerald Green Group the opportunity to focus on building out the interior to meet their specifications.
Central Park is one of the most popular destinations in New York City and the most visited park in the world. It is a recreational and economic hub of activity for New York City’s millions of residents and visitors. In addition to ballfields, gardens, lakes, bicycling and running paths, outdoor performance venues, tennis courts, ice skating rinks, a zoo and carousel, Central Park hosts dozens of dining options, from pushcarts to cafes and restaurants.
Tavern on the Green, originally known as the Sheepfold in Central Park, was designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould and constructed in the latter half of the 19th century. It is one of the city’s finest examples of Victorian Gothic architecture and one of the park’s most treasured landmarked buildings. The preliminary sketch for the building was published in the First Annual Report of the Department of Public Parks of 1871. Sixty years later, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses converted the Sheepfold (which actually housed 200 sheep that grazed across the street) into a restaurant named Tavern on the Green, which opened to the public on October 20, 1934.”
Top photo by bitchcakesny.