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New Tavern on the Green Could Serve Diners in Sweatpants

By Leslie Albrecht | December 7, 2011 7:09am

By Leslie Albrecht and Serena Solomon

DNAinfo Staff

UPPER WEST SIDE — Leave the jacket and tie at home — the new Tavern on the Green dress code could be exercise casual.

The Upper West Side's Community Board 7 on Tuesday called on whoever takes over the formerly upscale Central Park icon to make it a casual restaurant where all diners will feel welcome — even joggers fresh from a run.

The city Parks Department is on the verge of seeking a new operator for the former Tavern site, which closed in 2009. Community Board 7 passed a resolution to weigh in on the matter.

Currently, the Tavern site is being used as a gift shop, and until recently food trucks were parked on its terrace.

The board's resolution said the new restaurant, which will retain the famous name, "should truly facilitate 'casual' dining by a variety of customers (including, for instance, those in exercise clothing.)"

The laid-back dress code was one of many recommendations the board offered, aimed at making the new Tavern an establishment that will serve all park visitors, not just the wealthy.

"(The old Tavern) was essentially a nightclub destination largely for the privileged," said Community Board 7 Parks & Environment committee chair Klari Neuwelt. "There's no reason the 1 percent shouldn’t also enjoy the new Tavern, but it shouldn't just be the 1 percent."

The board also wants to see cheaper menu items at the new restaurant, and they'd like the re-imagined version of Tavern to be open to the public at all times, with no private catered events.

The resolution also suggests that the new Tavern — whose chandelier-studded dining room was once a go-to destination for special-occasion dinners — have signs clearly stating that its restrooms are open to the public.

At the old Tavern on the Green, park visitors either didn't know the bathrooms were available for a quick pit stop, "or did not feel comfortable using them," according to the resolution.

Neuwelt said she was inspired to add the "exercise clothes" provision because she and her husband go for morning walks in Central Park, and she knows from personal experience that Tavern on the Green would be an ideal spot to grab a quick breakfast afterward.

"There are a lot of tourists who exercise in Central Park, as well, and you want to offer them the enhanced experience of dining in the park without having to go back to their hotel and change clothes first," Neuwelt said.

She added that opening up Tavern to gym-clothes-clad diners doesn't mean the new restaurant can't also provide an upscale experience. The community board's resolution says a formal dining area at the new Tavern is fine with them, as long as the restaurant also makes room for more relaxed eating.

The old Tavern did not have a formal dress code, according to a Parks Department spokesman.

"Dress codes have gone the way of the dinosaur," said Andy Kaynor, a 38-year-old Upper West Side graphic designer. "There's no reason for that in today's society, especially here in New York."

Community Board 7's dressed-down vision for the new Tavern is in stark contrast to the Upper East Side's Community Board 8, whose members said they didn't like the idea of the storied Tavern space giving way to a laid-back restaurant.

Community Board 7 member Jay Adolf agreed with that view, sounding the lone note against a more casual Tavern on the Green at Tuesday's meeting.

"Tavern on the Green, for as long as I can remember, has been an internationally known tourist destination and a great source of attraction for the city," Adolf said.

"I'm not sure creating a great big snack bar in the park is really worth doing. The Parks Department should be open to creating something that really is spectacular and different."