When my wife and I went to New York's famed Tavern on the Green for dinner during the holiday season a few years ago, we were impressed by the facility's gorgeous exterior, ornate decor and avuncular (and Jewish) Santa Claus. But the food at one of America's most famous restaurants was mediocre at best, which makes it hardly surprising that it is serving its last meal on New Year's Eve.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% The LeRoy family, which has operated the tourist trap since 1974, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September, citing, in the words of 30-year-old CEO Jennifer Oz LeRoy, "the extreme financial distress brought on by the current financial crisis and the City of New York's decision not to renew our lease." Maybe LeRoy, whose grandfather Mervyn produced The Wizard of Oz, had hoped the restaurant could escape the flying monkeys of the Great Recession. Tavern's largest creditor in its bankruptcy filing was Jennifer LeRoy's mother, Kay LeRoy, who in 1999 divorced Jennifer's father, Warner LeRoy, according to The New York Times.
It's a cruel fate for the Tavern on the Green, which opened in 1934 and was synonymous for decades with fine dining in New York. Three years ago, the Central Park landmark -- with its Baccarat and Waterford chandeliers, Tiffany stained glass, and mural depicting the park -- was one of the country's top grossing independent restaurants, bringing in more than $38 million annually, according to National Public Radio. Now, the over-the-top decor is headed for the auction block to pay off the Tavern on the Green's debts.
The restaurant's demise was partially the result of the decline of New York's financial sector. Also, the costs to operate the building were enormous. Tickets to say goodbye to the grand dame are almost sold out. New York's Fox 5 News reports that some $1,000 tickets are still available at the owner's table. Nostalgic patrons will no doubt snap them up.
Elsewhere, Happier New Year's Eve Celebrations
Though the Tavern on the Green is grabbing the headlines, operators of other New York landmarks say that they are expecting to have happy New Year's Eve celebrations at their establishments. Both the Marriott Grand Marquis and its sister property, the Renaissance New York Times Square, are expecting sell-out crowds to watch the ball drop in Times Square, according to Kathy Duffy, a spokeswoman for the Mariott's (MAR) New York properties.
"We did not sell out last year," said Duffy in an interview with DailyFinance. Seats to see ball drop at the Renaissance sell for $2,500, while at the Grand Marquis, prime seats fetch $3,200. "Right now, the pace of bookings is looking very good."
In Texas, the Houstonian Hotel Club and Spa, one of the premiere hotels in Houston, has scaled back its New Year's celebration, and will entertain about 10% fewer guests than last year, according to spokeswoman Leslie Friedman. "We are certainly not having as big of a production as we normally do," she tells DailyFinance. Tickets sell for $229 a person and include a pre-dinner reception, seated dinner, dessert buffet, dancing, casino games and a "decadent" midnight breakfast.
Over in Beverly Hills, Calif., the Beverly Hills Hotel expects to see many of the same faces at its New Year's Party that have come for years. The five-star hotel is charging a modest -- by Beverly Hills standards anyway -- $250 per person to attend its shindig and expects a good turnout.
"We are on our second or third generation of loyal clients," says Wendy Schnee, a spokeswoman for the hotel, in an interview. "Considering the economic conditions, we are very fortunate."
NYC's Tavern on the Green Rings in Final New Year's Eve in the Red