Aladdin’s cave auction
NEW YORK: Tavern on the Green has put everything inside the bankrupt Central Park restaurant up for auction – from the kitschy chandeliers of capitalism to a banner touting the motto of communism.
The three-day sale in its glitzy Crystal Room started on Wednesday, with the Taver n’s stag-graced Central Park entrance sign first on the block. It fetched $5 000 (R37 123), surpassing the presale estimate of $1 000 to $4 000.
Proceeds from the 20 000 items auctioned by Guernsey’s are going towards the landmark restaurant’s $8 million debt.
Tavernon the Green served its last meal and closed its doors on New Year’s Eve after 75 years, its faded magnificence buckling to the recession. Just three years ago, it was still one of the world’s biggest-grossing restaurants, serving more than 700 000 meals a year that brought in about $38m.
A for mer sheepfold off Central Park West, Tavern sits on city property. Warner LeRoy took over its operating licence in 1973, refurbishing the restaurant with whimsical objects purchased around the world. From the Soviet Union came a red velvet banner with the image of Lenin, inscribed in the Cyrillic Russian alphabet with the inter national communist motto, “Workers of all nations, unite!” LeRoy died in 2001, and his daughter, Jennifer LeRoy, became the establishment’s CEO.
Tavern on the Green was known for its over-the-top décor, including a Regencystyle Osler chandelier with cut ruby overlay glass that sold for $26 000 – far below the pre-sale estimate of $50 000 to $200 000.
“The food was kind of mediocre, but that’s not why you came here,” said Frances Rickard, a property broker tickling the ivories of a Yamaha grands he was considering. From the piano bench, wrapped in her blue-dyed mink coat, she confessed with a grin: “When you wanted to be kitschy, you brought your out-of-town relatives here for a little bit of bizarreness.”
Rickard said she had to be careful about what she might buy “because there’s not much here that would fit into my Manhattan apartment. It’s all so grandiose”.
A huge wooden elk drew the attention of an elderly Polish-born woman, who stopped to pat its rump, murmuring to herself with a smile: “This is my favourite.”
Tables were piled with massive pots and pans from the Tavern’s kitchen. Endless rows of silver coffee ur ns were lined up like culinary soldiers, ready for the block.
A carved wooden eagle from the front entrance sold for only $5 000, well under its $10 000 to $50 000 estimate. And the chandelier from the entryway went for $15 000, against an estimate of $20 000 to $50 000.
But an Art Nouveau-style Tiffany glass hanging lamp sold for $16 000, topping the $5 000 to $10 000 estimate. And a vintage Wurlitzer juke box fetched $7 000, against a $4 000 to $10 000 estimate.
There were no minimums; each item went to the highest bidder.
Other items that bewitched visitors for decades include Baccarat and Waterford chandeliers, a mural depicting Central Park and a centuryold chandelier made of green glass, said to have been owned by an Indian maharajah.
One item took the prize for sheer garishness – Warner LeRoy’s signature “Green Rose Tablecloth Suit”, with bold red and green flowers splashed all over it.
The restaurant’s most precious item – its name – is not on the block. The moneymaking words, Tavern on the Green, valued at about $19m, are in court. A federal judge is to decide whether Dean Poll, the restaurateur who is taking over the space, can call his new business by its famed old name.