Tavern on the Green, once America’s highest-grossing restaurant, is singing its culinary swan song.
The former sheepfold at the edge of Central Park, now ringed by twinkling lights and fake topiary animals, is preparing for New Year’s Eve, when it will serve its last meal. Just three years ago, it was plating more than 700,000 meals annually, bringing in more than $38 million.
But that astronomical sum wasn’t enough to keep the landmark restaurant out of bankruptcy court. Its $8 million debt is to be covered at an auction of Baccarat and Waterford chandeliers, Tiffany stained glass, a mural depicting Central Park and other over-the-top decor that has bewitched visitors for decades.
Even the restaurant’s name is up for grabs. At stake is whether another restaurateur taking over the 27,000 square feet of space, owned by the city, can reopen as Tavern on the Green.
For 75 years, since it first opened amid the Great Depression, the Tavern has attracted clients from around the world.
“This reminds me so much of Poland!” exclaimed Vermont resident Meg Kearton as she entered for her first time in late December. “It reminds me of a restaurant in Warsaw — the grandeur and the colors.”
A decisive moment comes in January. That’s when a Manhattan federal judge will either side with the city and rule that the moneymaking name Tavern on the Green, valued at about $19 million, belongs to whomever operates the space or say the current owners keep it.
If the city loses, the facility will reopen as Tavern in the Park.