NEW YORK – A judge says New York City can keep the "Tavern on the Green" name for the famed restaurant building in Central Park that's been forced to close because of financial problems.
U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum on Wednesday settled the biggest question in a legal dispute between the city and the longtime operators of the landmark eatery. The restaurant closed on New Year's Eve because of financial problems.
The debt holders of the bankrupt restaurant had sought to stop the city from using the name in the future. The city wanted the court to declare it the rightful owner of the name, which has been valued at $19 million.
The judge sided with the city, saying it had licensed the facility and retained extensive control, including the right to regulate the times and manner of operation and to terminate the license if it found the restaurant was being operated unsatisfactorily.
Cedarbaum noted that "Tavern on the Green" has been a famous name associated in the public mind with a restaurant in the city's Central Park since 1934.
Until it closed, the restaurant had been operated since the 1970s by Tavern on the Green Limited Partnership and LeRoy Adventures Inc.
Before the recession hit several years ago, the restaurant was one of the world's biggest-grossing restaurants, plating more than 700,000 meals a year and generating $38 million in revenues.
Last August, the city awarded the license to restaurateur Dean Poll, who hopes to open in the spring after delivering on a pledge to spend $25 million refurbishing the 27,000 feet of space into a new restaurant.
A court-ordered auction of the glitzy decor of the restaurant recently generated millions of dollars to help erase the prior owner's $8 million debt.
A three-day sale offered more than 20,000 items that once filled the restaurant, from crystal chandeliers and china to kitchen equipment and knickknacks like a pig-shaped weather vane.
The auction's highest bid — $180,000 — was for a Tiffany glass ceiling.
Cedarbaum also ruled that LeRoy made deliberate misstatements and omissions when it registered the name "Tavern on the Green" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for restaurant services in 1978. She then canceled the registration for fraud.
A lawyer for LeRoy Adventures did not immediately return a request for comment.