By Larry Levine –

If the second highest grossing independently owned and operated restaurant in the nation can’t make it, what does that say about a) the state of the restaurant business, b) the economy, c) the management of the place, d) the City of New York, or e) all of the above?

Tavern on the Green, the legendary restaurant off Central Park West at W. 67th St. in Central Park in Manhattan, is closed. Last seating was Dec. 31, 2009.

It was kitschy and touristy. But I loved to do lunch there once on each visit to New York. We would stay at the Park Lane Hotel on C.P. South and stroll through the park, sometimes with snow dusting the trees, to meet friends for lunch.

So much history tied up in the place. A key locale for the New York Marathon pre-race carb dinner, it also was the finishing line for the race.

John Lennon, Grace Kelly and Fay Wray were regulars at one time or another. No counting how many wedding memories are tied to the place. And it was the location for dozens of movies and TV shows.

According to Wikipedia, the $37 million gross in 2007, with half a million visitors, was second only to Tao at The Venetian in Las Vegas among independently operated U.S. restaurants that year.

There may be some irony in the fact that Tavern opened its doors for the first time during The Great Depression but didn’t weather this recession.

There are two stories about what happened. Most credible is that the City of New York wanted a higher cut of the proceeds to renew the lease. When the restaurant wouldn’t cough up, the City awarded the lease to another firm – the same concessionaire that runs the row boats.

Wiki says the building will undergo major renovation and re-open under new ownership. But the Wiki report says nothing about a dispute between the owner and the City over money and the new lease. It simply says Tavern went bankrupt. Flip side of that speculates that the bankruptcy was the result of the lost lease.

In the meantime, there’s a dispute over rights to the name. Owners of Tavern told the City they would sell the rights to the name for $19 million. The City said it wouldn’t pay and would just change the name to Café on the Green. Owners threatened to sue.

Share this: