NEW YORK For Tavern on the Green and its many patrons past and present, the end of an era is fast approaching as the New York City landmark prepares to auction off its contents, including its world-famous Tiffany lamps, next month.
Tavern on the Green is using proceeds from the auction to pay creditors after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year. According to officials for Guernsey’s Auction House, which is handling the sale, the auction is expected to raise millions from the sale of the restaurant's many relics, including authentic Tiffany lamps and chandeliers made of Baccarat crystal, hand-painted murals, fine linen, china, stemware, and even its inventory of wines and spirits.
The auction will be held Jan. 13-15, with the first two days open to the general public and the third day open to restaurateurs, architects and designers only, said Arlan Ettinger, Guernsey’s president. Bidders do not have to attend the auction in person, Ettinger said. They can bid in absentia over the telephone, e-mail or online at www.liveauctioneers.com .
Ettinger said one of the Baccarat crystal chandeliers alone could fetch up to $500,000 at the auction. However, he noted, there will plenty of more affordable memorabilia up for bidding.
“There will be about 700 lots or selling units every day,” he said. “It will include anything from a single chandelier to, maybe, a 10-place setting that constitutes an entire dining table."
He added that there would be a lot of inventory for those in the industry, such 20 dozen Italian tablecloths and stockpiles of wines.
On a tour of the restaurant Wednesday, Ettinger reflected on past auctions that have also held a high degree of sentimentality, such as Elvis Presley's estate and the auction of President John F. Kennedy's White House memorabilia. However, he said he thought the Tavern auction would be one of the most emotional given how many people worldwide have their own memories of dining at the institution, himself included.
“I took my wife on our first date to Tavern on the Green,” he recalled. “I’ve now taken my children there, and while you could argue that the food may not have been as great there at times as it is at other places, it is more than that; it’s the ambience that makes it special occasion for many people.
"I think many people [will participate in the auction]," he added. "They’ll want to say that because they had such wonderful memories from Tavern, they wanted to own a piece of it.”
Entrepreneur Warner LeRoy began operating the landmark restaurant in 1976 and was succeeded by his daughter, Jennifer, after his death in 2001. Earlier this year, the LeRoys lost the contract to operate the renowned fine-dining restaurant in Central Park when the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation decided not to renew their option with the restaurateurs and instead signed a tentative agreement with Dean Poll, operator of the Central Park Boathouse.
Ettinger said he had talked to Poll recently, who told him he might attend the auction. He added that he hoped the restaurant would continue on in some kind of capacity.
“I hope someone will be able to take it over and make it beautiful,” Ettinger said. “It’s inconceivable that this will just wither away.”
Ettinger expressed his own sadness at the prospect of auctioning off Tavern on the Green’s contents.
“It is sad,” he said. “I was talking to [someone] today who said prepare to shed a million tears; you better have some tissues.”