Tavern on the Block
CITY WANTS LOTS OF GREEN FOR EATERY
New York Post 2/3/2009
By STEVE CUOZZO
Tavern on the Green officially went up for grabs yesterday, just in time for what’s likely to be the worst restaurant slump since humans first used spoons.
The city Parks Department put out a “request for proposals” to take over the operating contract for the landmark Central Park eatery when longtime owner Jennifer LeRoy’s license runs out at the end of the year. Offers are due in by May 1.
LeRoy, daughter of legendary Hollywood mogul Warner LeRoy, hopes to continue to run Tavern for another 20 years, according to Tavern chief operating officer Michael Desiderio.
He said the LeRoys, who have run Tavern since 1974, “have every intention of working with the city to continue” operating the second-highest-grossing restaurant in America.
But it’s unclear how many others will make competitive bids at a time when restaurants are in trouble and when banquet and private-event business – which accounts for up to 50 percent of Tavern’s revenue – is all but dead.
When the city began drumming up excitement over a possible change of hands last year, there was a long list of names “salivating” to take the place over.
At least one is still hot: the Glazier Group, which runs Michael Jordan’s steakhouse at Grand Central and the Strip House. Owner Peter Glazier said, “We’re looking for a financial partner to go after this deal.”
But Donald Trump – who told The Post last March that Tavern had “suffered greatly” in recent years but that he could make it “the hottest place in the country” – said yesterday that it was “highly unlikely” he’d bid for it now “because of some of the past legacy and because the world is a different place.”
Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said Tavern enjoyed a “location that can’t be duplicated. Even in a faltering economy, there’s no shortage of interest, and our phones are ringing off the hook.”
But picking up the phone isn’t the same as coming up with the bucks the city is seeking. Under its 25-year-old license, Tavern paid the city just $1.268 million last year, including a $1 million annual fee and 3.5 percent of gross revenue.
Prospective bidders for the new license are expected to offer a number that reflects “current market rates for similar food-service concessions,” the city proposal states. It cited the park’s Loeb Boathouse restaurant, which brings in less than half of Tavern’s revenue, but paid the city $2.55 million in 2007.