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A look at the new Tavern on the Green

Former fine-dining restaurant reopens as food court, visitor's center

Tavern on the Green, once one of New York's highest-grossing restaurants, has reopened in Central Park as a visitor’s center and food court featuring fare from four food trucks parked on its outdoor terrace.

Officials from the Department of Parks & Recreation, including commissioner Adrian Benepe, were on hand to cut the ribbon on Friday.

The building that once housed the restaurant is now home to a $2.5 million visitor’s center that features a gift shop and public restrooms. In addition, video screens are mounted along the walls, depicting scenes and information about Central Park and New York City.

The four food trucks parked on the outdoor terrace offer items from such New York operators as Pera Mediterranean Brasserie, Rickshaw Dumpling, Ladle of Love and Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream. Prices for food and beverage items sold at each truck range between $3.50 and $10.

Commissioner Benepe said the city expects to generate around $290,000 in revenue from the food truck concessions. Each truck operator has been required to pay the city a flat fee of between $45,000 and $100,000 for the right to sell food on the premises for one year. The contract also offers the operators a one-year extension.

Benepe said he did not know whether the visitor’s center and food court would remain a permanent fixture or if a request for proposal for another full-service restaurant would be issued in future.

“It’s hard to say; we’ll see how things turn out,” he said. “If it works out, it’ll stay on. This is what it is for now, and it is something we’ve always wanted here. But it’s a model. If it doesn’t work, then we’ll explore other options.”

Benepe said the city was “playing a little catch-up ball in trying to bring some of the same variety [of food] into the park that you can find on any street corner in New York. This is a city that never stops eating and now [the public] can do that right here inside the park.”

In its heyday, Tavern on the Green was New York City’s highest-grossing restaurant, generating around $37.6 million in annual sales. It was a major tourist attraction until it was shuttered last New Year’s Eve.

The city decided to take over the space last spring, after negotiations broke down between the union representing the establishment’s 400 employees and Dean Poll, who had been awarded Tavern’s operating contract last year.

Contact Elissa Elan at [email protected].

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