She is all washed up – and this is grief for the city.
Beware of false claims by city officials trying to save face – I don’t expect the Central Park boathouse to come back to life soon after the restaurant closes its doors in October.
“We intend to hire a future operator as soon as possible,” Parks Department officials said Friday after current manager Dean J. Poll announced he was ending operations.
Poll, the Long Island restaurateur best known for saving Gallagher’s steakhouse from closing in 2013, blamed skyrocketing food prices driven by inflation, coupled with high labor costs.
But if the past is any guide, we’ll have an awfully long wait for a table at the most beautiful lakeside spot on earth.
The harrowing story of another Central Park establishment, Tavern on the Green, when Poll pulled out of a deal to reopen the then-obscure landmark in 2010, involves finding a new operator for Boathouse that could operate until the Central Park sheep return.
A prolonged closure would be a tragedy for the park and post-pandemic New York. Visiting friends from Seattle who had never seen it until recently were in awe of the beauty of the place – as I am every time I visit.
But the Tavern became “The Cave in the Green” for five years under the Bloomberg administration. Issue #1 was that the city insisted that the New York City Hotel and Motel Board’s infamous hardline Local 6 union represent workers under a new operator who replaced previous licensee Jennifer LeRoy, even though the city was not required to require it. .
Poll, who has run the boathouse since 2000, closed a deal in 2010 to open a tavern. But he left after the union blocked his plan to cut staff.
Local 6 got even with Poll for trying to cut its hold on the Tavern when they forced their way into the formerly non-union Boathouse a year later.
The forced marriage seemed to work, but the bitterness never went away.
Now, with Poll planning to close the boathouse on October 17 at the cost of 163 union jobs, rumors are circulating that it is simply trying to get Local 6 to swallow job cuts, among other gifts. But that’s unlikely, given the union’s style of taking no prisoners.
The poll downplayed the idea that a new operator might be chosen soon, saying “maybe not” when The Post asked about it.
Before anyone can turn the lights back on, the Parks Department must apply for a complicated license agreement; it can take a long time while they wait and evaluate offers. Potential operators have to crunch the numbers in relation to the requirement to pay the city an annual fee of $1.7 million or 7.2% of annual income, whichever is greater, not to mention the terms of the union contract.
Poll did everything possible – and even more. He turned the boathouse, once a tourist-only destination, into a viable destination for New Yorkers. A $2.9 million renovation in 2018 made the lakeside location even more inviting with improved seating, decor, and a new glass wall that rises with the weather.
He also made the modern American menu better than ever. Dishes this summer – like basil crusted salmon with Tuscan couscous ($36 for lunch, $38 for dinner), grilled lamb loin for dinner only for $42) and one of the best crab cakes I’ve ever had ( lunch and dinner for $23) were not only delicious. but by today’s standards at a reasonable price.
It would be a pity to lose the great tastes of Elling for so long in a setting that so beautifully glorifies our city.
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