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Central Park

City Selects Proposal For Landmark Restaurant In Central Park

Friday, August 28, 2009
No. 87

Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe today announced that the City is prepared to award the 20-year license term for the renovation and operation of the restaurant currently known as Tavern on the Green to restaurateur Dean Poll. Mr. Poll submitted the highest rated proposal in response to a widely disseminated Request for Proposals, the City’s process for selecting a concessionaire upon the expiration of license terms. Subject to the successful completion of contract negotiations and other required review and approvals, Parks anticipates Mr. Poll’s term commencing once the existing restaurant license expires on December 31, 2009. Mr. Poll’s proposal was selected for its imaginative business plan, solid financial backing, substantial capital investment and a design and renovation plan that respects the historic elements of the original structure and integrates the restaurant within the natural park setting. Mr. Poll also successfully renovated and currently operates the Loeb Boathouse, a similar Central Park facility.

“We are pleased to select Dean Poll as the new operator of this world-famous location in Central Park,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “He has done an outstanding job for eight years at the Loeb Boathouse, and his vision for the restaurant, as outlined in his strong proposal detailing a significant capital investment in the landmark structure, will ensure that both residents and visitors to New York will enjoy fine dining in one of the city’s most historic and bucolic settings for years to come.”

“I am truly honored to have been chosen to become the new concessionaire of this restaurant,” said Dean Poll. “As the operator of the Loeb Boathouse for the past eight years, I have come to know and understand the special place that the restaurant holds in the hearts of New Yorkers and visitors alike. I am excited for the opportunity to bring a fresh vision to this wonderful New York City landmark—one that will keep its unique charm while at the same time introducing new features to this special place in the park. I look forward to working with the Parks Department, Local 6, and the Central Park Conservancy to further this restaurant’s status as an iconic destination in Central Park.”

The successful proposal includes a $25 million capital investment in the historic building, including new HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems, kitchens, and replaced slate roofs. The plan incorporates green building technology, preserves the landmark restaurant’s historic aspects, creates ADA accessible restrooms and a new elevator, and implements new landscape designs that will open up views of the Sheep Meadow. Poll’s plan re-imagines the current Crystal Room as a conservatory-style dining space which will complement the Victorian architecture of the original Jacob Wrey Mould building. The plan also pays tribute to the 1950s renovation. The Loewy Room, named after the famed designer of that renovation, Raymond Loewy, will feature leather banquettes, wood paneling and other design elements reflective of that period. A new venue is envisioned for the area near the West Drive, with an outdoor café, bike racks and new public restrooms accessible directly from the exterior of the main building. The renovation plan will be conducted in phases so that the restaurant will remain open. The renovation will be overseen by Koutsomitis Architects PC, a firm that has worked on such important Parks projects as the restoration of the Washington Square Arch, the reconstruction of the Chelsea Recreation Center and the renovation of a number of the city’s historic houses.

Planned operations support a variety of dining options, including à la carte dining, banquet rooms, a club room offering small plates and an outdoor café serving sandwiches and snacks. Poll’s plan will also make significant upgrades to the kitchen and receiving area in order to streamline deliveries and make for more efficient food preparation.

The building that now houses the restaurant was originally known as the Sheepfold in Central Park. Constructed in the latter half of the 19th century, it is one of the city’s finest examples of Victorian Gothic architecture and one of the Park’s most treasured landmarked buildings. The preliminary sketch for the building was published in the First Annual Report of the Department of Public Parks of 1871. Sixty years later, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses converted the Sheepfold (which actually housed 200 sheep that grazed across the street) into a restaurant named Tavern on the Green, which opened to the public on October 20, 1934. New Yorkers quickly embraced this new eatery and it soon became an integral part of the city’s social life. A succession of management companies operated the restaurant until well-known New York restaurateur Warner LeRoy acquired the license in 1973. The revitalized restaurant became a popular destination for tourists and New Yorkers alike. It has grown in size and popularity over the years, embracing more than a half-million patrons annually.

Dean Poll has more than 30 years of experience in restaurant and catering operations. After working in his father’s Pappas Restaurant in Sheepshead Bay, Poll and his brothers opened River Bay and Bryant & Cooper restaurants on Long Island. In 2000, Poll was awarded the contract to operate the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, which incorporates an à la carte restaurant, banquet facility, snackbar, and bicycle and rowboat rentals. Poll has invested more than $4 million in restoring the Boathouse and the business is now one of Parks’ top grossing facilities.

View historical photographs of the restaurant and download the Request for Proposals.

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