Tavern on the Green (Katie Sokoler / Gothamist)
Tavern on the Green, the legendary restaurant nestled in Central Park, is no stranger to problems, from union issues to an uneven culinary program after its reopening in 2014. And now it’s at the center of a legal fight between New York City, which owns the restaurant trademark, and a company that is allowed to use the famous restaurant’s name.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the city “filed a complaint Friday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan against Tavern on the Green International, a New Jersey-based limited liability company that is permitted to use the celebrated name on restaurants outside the five boroughs.”
The city owns the restaurant trademark for Tavern on the Green, and a concurrent use arrangement reached in 2011 prohibits the outside company from using Central Park or pictures or images of the park for restaurants and products. Tavern on the Green International also can’t say its restaurants or products are licensed by or connected to the famed New York restaurant.
Last April, attorneys for the city gave notice to Tavern on the Green International that it was revoking its consent to the use of the Tavern name. Four months later, Tavern on the Green International retained a consultant to sell franchises under the Tavern name.
On MBB Management’s website, here’s its description of having the “Tavern on the Green” brand name available for franchise opportunities:
MBB is proud to announce that Tavern on the Green International is taking that special, unique, pampered and iconic experience ‘on the road’ to people outside the tri-state area. The Company is establishing a boutique network of restaurants to evoke a feeling of escape for the consumer. Restaurants will bring to mind memories of original visits to the space in New York City but they will be updated to offer the warm service, aesthetic and contemporary atmosphere that people have come to expect of restaurants as the new ‘accessible’ private club.
The very mention of the “Tavern on the Green” brings a smile to the face of any past guest as memories of magical moments cross their mind. Many famous celebrities such as Dan Aykroyd, Halle Berry, Liv Tyler, Elijah Wood and countless others have visited the original location in New York City’s Central Park. John Lennon actually spent many of his birthdays there. A trip to Central Park was incomplete without going to the legendary Tavern on the Green restaurant that operated from 1934 to 2009. Such was the restaurant’s fame that it was the 4th most visited tourist attraction in the city. For more than 30 years Tavern on the Green was synonymous with Central Park, no trip to New York was complete without visiting the twinkling lights and red awning of this historic landmark. The name Tavern on the Green transcended a restaurant and became an icon of romance, celebrity, luxury, and of the best that New York has to offer…
… The Franchisee will also benefit from the global appeal and recognition of that world famous restaurant located in Central Park in the City of New York. The Tavern on the Green Franchise however, is not affiliated with Tavern on the Green in Central Park in New York City.
A lawyer representing Tavern on the Green International told the WSJ the city’s complaint didn’t “have much validity.”
At any rate, the NYC restaurant has not had a lot of luck lately. Last October, the Post’s Steve Cuozzo, who vowed never to go back to the restaurant after a disastrous 2015 experience, wrote that the restaurant—which grossed $40 million a year during its heyday—may have been cursed since its renowned Crystal Room was demolished in the new incarnation of the restaurant.
Imagine if Donald Trump were allowed to run Tavern on the Green, as he had proposed years ago. Maybe he would have been too busy for other pursuits?