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New Plans for Tavern on Green

New Plans for Tavern on Green

The Wall Street Journal 5/21/2010


Tavern on the Green is back in the market for a new operator after labor negotiations collapsed Thursday, leaving the landmark property’s future as a restaurant in doubt.

The city will transform the once-glitzy space in Central Park into a visitor center, snack bar and retail shop as it solicits new proposals, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Donald Trump, Cipriani USA and Arthur and David Emil, former operators of Windows on the World and The Rainbow Room, are all interested in operating Tavern on the Green, according to an individual familiar with the matter.

Mr. Trump said that people have asked him to get involved in the Tavern and he’s willing to do so and invest his own money to restore the restaurant “to its former glory.” He compared the restaurant to Wollman Rink in Central Park, which the city struggled for years to renovate before Mr. Trump succeeded in bringing it back into operation.

“I view Tavern on the Green as a city trust and maybe as a national trust,” he said. It has to be done right and has to be done right by someone with a lot of money.”

John Higgins, CEO of Cipriani, said he intends to submit a proposal. “We’re very much interested. We’ve always had a longstanding relationship with Local 6 and we’re sorry that they couldn’t make the negotiations work but we’re excited to have the opportunity to go for the license. We will submit.”

The Emils could not be reached for comment.
Discussions between Dean J. Poll, who won a license last year to operate the Tavern, and the New York Hotel Trades Council, which represents restaurant workers, broke down over issues such as wages, arbitration and pensions, according to people familiar with the impasse.

The mayor met with both sides Thursday morning before contract talks began.

“It’s disappointing that an agreement could not be reached between the two parties,” Mr. Bloomberg said, in a statement released after a 5 p.m. deadline.

The solicited proposals will include labor obligations for anyone who wants to reopen the Tavern as a restaurant, the statement said, meaning the workers in the establishment will remain unionized.

There are about 400 former employees of Tavern on the Green, one of the nation’s highest-grossing independent restaurants. It closed its doors Jan. 1.

The mayor’s statement indicated that the storied restaurant may never reopen in its original form, saying that the success of the venue as a visitor center and store will determine “whether or not to turn all or part of it back into a restaurant.”