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New York’s Tavern on the Green Files for Bankruptcy

From By Andrea Tan, Christopher Scinta and Linda Sandler, Bloomberg: Tavern on the Green LP, operator of the 75-year-old restaurant in New York’s Central Park, sought bankruptcy protection after losing its lease on the city property to a higher bidder a month ago.

The restaurant’s name, valued at $19 million and in place since its founding by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses in 1934, now will be sold to the highest bidder in bankruptcy court, according to Keith Costa, a lawyer for the bankrupt partnership.

The lease for Tavern on the Green, the second-highest- grossing restaurant in the U.S. last year, had been held since 1974 by the family of Warner LeRoy, which owns the Tavern on the Green name. The city last month awarded the lease for 20 years starting at the end of Dec. 31 to restaurateur Dean Poll, who runs the Central Park Boathouse Restaurant.

Poll, who didn’t immediately respond to a call and e-mail seeking comment, will meet with representatives of the LeRoys later today, Costa said. If he is interested, then the name would be sold at auction to the highest bidder, he said.

The bankrupt partnership listed assets and debts of as much as $50 million each in a filing yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, with more than 200 creditors. It said it probably won’t have enough to pay unsecured creditors, after deducting expenses and exempt property.

Financial Crisis

“The filing was the result of two factors -- the extreme financial distress brought on by the current financial crisis and the City of New York’s decision not to renew our lease,” Tavern on the Green Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Oz LeRoy said in a statement.

The restaurant will continue to operate during the reorganization, she said. Discussions between Poll and LeRoy representatives include ways to keep operating after Poll takes over on Jan. 1 and begins to renovate, said Shelley Clark, a spokeswoman for Jennifer LeRoy.

“We’re working out those things,” she said.

Warner LeRoy, who died in 2001 at age 65 after creating New York restaurants such as Maxwell’s Plum, was the son of Mervyn LeRoy, who produced the 1939 Warner Bros. film, “The Wizard of Oz.” His granddaughter Jennifer will host the entertainment company’s gala celebration of the film’s 70th anniversary on Sept. 24 at the Tavern, according to Clark and a spokeswoman for Warner Bros.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=abzOSdFMyek8

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