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Tavern on the Green: Now Up for Grabs!

Tavern on the Green: Now Up for Grabs!

Storied spot to stay a restaurant; ruling LeRoys vow to keep control; winner gets site for 20 years

The Observer 2/2/2009

by Chris Shott

Let the bidding begin!

The city Parks Department on Monday released its long-awaited 42-page request for proposals (RFP) from area restaurateurs seeking to operate the lucrative 25,000-square-foot Central Park eatery “currently known as Tavern on the Green.”

A number of big names have been mentioned as possible contenders, including Danny Meyer, Drew Nieporent, Dean Poll — even Donald Trump! — though current operator Jennifer Oz LeRoy, daughter of the late legendary restaurateur Warner LeRoy, owns a federal trademark on the eatery’s famous name and has vowed to retain her flagship restaurant.

In a statement, Michael Desiderio, currently the restaurant’s chief operating officer, said: “The LeRoy Family has proudly owned and operated Tavern on the Green since 1974, guiding it to unprecedented success and establishing it as a world renowned destination that is part of the fabric of this great city. The LeRoys have every intention of working with the City to continue serving the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and visitors that come through their doors every year for generations to come.”

Tavern on the Green is among the country’s top-grossing independently owned restaurants, earning more than $36 million in 2008, yet paying only $1.2 million, roughly 3.5 percent of revenues, to its landlord, the city.

“The City expects that proposers offer a minimum annual fee and percentage of gross receipts that reflect current market rates,” according to the RFP, which further notes that other city-owned eateries pay as much as 10 to 20 percent of revenues.

“Proposers are encouraged to submit comprehensive, thoughtful and imaginative proposals for the renovation and operation of a restaurant that will continue to attract and delight patrons well into the 21st century,” according to the RFP.

Site visits are scheduled for March with proposals due May 1. The 20-year licensing term for the site begins in January 2010.