Aladdin’s cave auc­tion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - AUCTIONS -

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.

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