Tavern on the Green, the Central Park mainstay who seduced so many with its tacky, gilded décor, has closed its doors for good. You’ve no doubt read the stories detailing the restaurant’s license dispute with the city or the auction that’s now being readied to sell the contents of the fabled spot. If you’ve lived here long enough, everyone’s got their own Tavern story.
Mine involves holiday parties—years of them in fact. Back in the day when I worked at SmartMoney.com, which was co-owned by Hearst and Dow Jones, we got to attend Hearst’s annual holiday party, held at Tavern on the Green.
Being there always felt like spending an evening at an eccentric great aunt’s house that was overly decorated with chandeliers, sconces and lots of mauve. Everywhere you looked there was something gilded or some sort of stained glass. Tavern was like a grand lady who wore too much garish makeup to compensate for her looks that had faded with age. Still, you had a soft spot in your heart for her.
And that’s why, looking back now, dipping into Tavern’s kaleidoscope of holiday cheer was a kitschy treat. We never arrived on time because, as daily reporters, we always had deadlines to meet, a million things to do before our day was done, so some of the buffets were fairly picked over by the time we walked in. But there was always another table brimming with different treats, another chafing dish being replenished, another food station to explore. There were ice sculptures surrounded by shrimp and crab legs, dessert tables longer than most city apartments were wide and uniformed servers rushing to and fro. In retrospect, that such a fete was held at Tavern on the Green, where all things over-the-top seemed to live, was perfect. It made for the quintessential holiday indulgence.
Today, many are mourning the restaurant’s passing, but not me. I think it’s great that someone is going to breathe new life into a location that, while possessing an odd charm, had grown stale over the years. It is, in other words, time to make some new memories.