Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Sep 10, 2009 04:53 PM

NYC's Tavern on the Green files for bankruptcy

New owner taking over a 20-year lease on the space on 01/01/10. May not keep the name after renovations.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. As I understand, the LeRoy family owns the name and they do not plan to sell it....and are considering opening a new Tavern On The Green if a suitable location can be found.

    I also have read previously, Dean Poll does not want to use or purchase the rights to the name either. He wants a new fresh start to the new restaurant after the renovations.

    1. I know restaurateuring is a tough, tough enterprise, and especially in NYC, but I did not know this and was shocked to read your post. I would think that one has to be an extraordinarily poor businessperson to drive that place into the fiscal ground. Doesn't even matter how good the food was or wasn't. With that location, the setting around it, all those freakin' fairy lights AND the metro NYC--some 18 million people in NY, CT and NJ; and domestic and international tourism****; wedding; and corporate event markets, one would have to be an utter dimwit not to be able to pull off filling that place every single day and practicing highway robbery on its patrons. (***I know for a fact--not hyperbole--that TotG was a virtual must-stop for nearly every major U.S. and foreign travel wholesaler and tour operator running programs year-round into New York City. And the thing about that is there is *rarely* such a thing as a true worldwide recession. When our economy is tanking or even merely listless, internation travelers from *somewhere in the world* can buy more here, due to the relative strength of their currencies against the dollar.)

      I don't understand how it was possible for the LeRoys to overreach so, as they evidently did, with so many creditors.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Normandie

        Aren't they the 2nd highest grossing independent restaurant in the US? amazing...

        1. re: dorian

          If I'm not mistaken, dorian, in the last year or two it was the second highest grossing restaurant in the nation.

          But prior to that, for many years, it was THE highest grossing restaurant in America.

          Wasn't Mr. LeRoy the one who wrecked the Russian Tea Room and left it closed for five years (before the current ownership)? One more place even my ten-year-old Labrador Retriever (truly lovable, but not the brightest bulb in the pack) ought to be able to run for an outrageous profit.

          So at least two indelible blots on the LeRoys' record.

          1. re: Normandie

            I don't know how much profit was made but restaurants run a tight profit margin anyway, but with sales so high you would think they were still doing well. There must have been a reason that a lot of the people who were interested backed out, such as the Brennan family in New Orleans, they obviously didn't like something they saw.

            1. re: roro1831

              Very interesting re the Brennans, roro. I think you're on to something. I wonder if it will come out.

        2. re: Normandie

          Actually, from a business perspective, filing for bankruptcy makes perfect sense. Whatever your opinion is on the quality of the restaurant itself, the numbers listed in the article are not really excessive for the gross business the restaurant produced. I can only surmise that talks with the city factored into the owners plans on business decisions onwhat to pay and what not to pay on a timely basis.

          Tavern On The Green's license on the lease was set to expire and a new lease was put up for bid. There was no guarantee the LeRoy organization would get the renewal.....which they did not.

          Just because you have a high profile addrees or location does not guarantee a successful endeavor. There are some extrremely high numbers for the new agreement to be met. I'll have to think about it, but recently, didn't a hot dog vender get sued by the city for nonpayment of rent at one of the museum sites controlled by the Parks and Recreation Department? If I recall, the vendor guaranteed something like a half a million dollars on his bid....and had to do something like 65K a week to meet his obligation...and also, he may not have had any prior commercial food experience. Was the vendor an idiot, or can the NYC Parks and Recreation Department be blamed for an obviously stupid agreement.

        3. New Yorkers rarely ever went to TOTG, usually if they did it was at the request of an out of town visitor. It is a tourist trap and a local joke. The place has had a reputation for years of serving subpar food for years. There was no incentive for them to raise the standards. Why should they the place was always packed with tourist willing to pay top dollar. One can't help but be lead to believe that there is a huge profit margin there. There was even a recent quote by the current Laroy sating along the lines, that they were aware that the standards had slipped but it wasn't their fault because the restaurant is so busy that they didn't have time to raise the standards.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Withnail42

            I'm well aware it was a tourist trap; I was just rather surprised to hear of the bankruptcy. As you said - one can't help but be led to believe that they had a huge profit margin (despite most restaurants having a slim one). So owing the money they do just seems like a bit of a slimy thing to do. But then again, not knowing what the books are like, who knows?

            1. re: Withnail42

              There was a stretch of time (and, yes, I am talking some years back now--maybe the late '80s or early '90s) where it did have a certainly resurgence of popularity among New Yorkers, and certainly for group events, which in NY do not comprise unsophisticated participants. But it looks to me like you nailed the problem right on the head with your last sentence. Migosh, what kind of an attitude is that, that he expressed? I mentioned the Tea Room before. Looks like they didn't learn from that. I read in an article that he was always more of a showman than a restaurateur. Too bad the City has to give licenses to guys like that; puts the City in the position of complying with ripping off tourists and visitors from abroad. Not exactly right.

              1. re: Normandie

                TOTG had a period where the food was genuinely delicious -- from 1995 - 1997, when Patrick Clark was the Exec. Chef. Otherwise, it's been nothing to rave about.

                1. re: ChefJune

                  It may be his tenure of which I was thinking. Hard to say. The years run together.

            2. Does anybody know the following?

              I moved from NY about nine years ago. Right around the time I left, the City was opening or re-opening (can't remember which) a restaurant or cafe in Bryant Park. Is that still operating? If so, does the City run it, or is it licensed out, and how is it?

              1. Fortunately I don't know much about bankruptcy, but not knowing what I'm talking about hasn't stopped me before, so here's my take:

                When it became apparent they were going to lose the restaurant they asked themselves the question: "Ethics aside, will we take away more money if we pay our bills or if we don't?"

                1 Reply
                1. re: ilikefood

                  You may think you don't know much about bankruptcy, but I'm thinking maybe you do, at least for some people. (I realize there are many people who enter into it who *want* to pay their bills, for whom keeping their commitments is paramount, but life is tough sometimes and they just can't. So I don't mean to cast aspersions on a whole group of people, by ANY means. It just seems as though there's a pattern of behavior here for the LeRoys, or at least on or two amongst them.)

                  "Ethics aside" would seem to be the seminal phrase. All those creditors were planning on receiving monies for services and goods rendered from the LeRoys according to an agreed upon schedule. And we all know now how widespread credit defaults can affect us all, via recession, tight credit even for worthy borrowers, etc.