UPPER WEST SIDE — Tavern on the Green moved a step closer to reopening after a local community board committee approved its liquor license Wednesday, with its new owners planning a New Year's Eve launch.
The new Tavern will stay open until 1 a.m. nightly and have a sustainable approach to its menu, its new operators, Philadelphia restaurateurs Jim Caiola and David Salama of the Emerald Green Group, told Community Board 7 at a meeting Wednesday.
Despite the late hours each night, the venue will be "food focused" and not a raucous party hall like the last iteration at the famed Central Park venue, Caiola said.
Board 7 approved the liquor license for the establishment Wednesday, which is being revamped after being closed for more than three years.
Chef Katy Sparks wooed members by describing the restaurant as an upscale neighborhood establishment with a eco-conscious focus.
"It’s oriented towards the kind of casual fine dining you’d find in other restaurants like Telepan. We’re talking about food that’s locally sourced and sustainable," she said.
"The values of respecting the land is going to be very much on our mind," Sparks added.
Her menu will feature everything from a burger to a ribeye steak for two.
"There’s going to be a celebratory aspect to the food, but at the same time it will be accessible," she explained.
Sparks is also overseeing Tavern's takeout menu, which will feature smoothies, hot chocolate and premade sandwiches, among other items, she said.
The restaurant will not close between lunch and dinner, and will serve brunch on the weekends, she added.
LEED-certified lighting will be used to ensure the illumination is subtle and not a bother to neighbors, said CB7's business and consumer issues co-chair George Zeppenfeldt-Cestero, who visited the restaurant this week. He described the lighting as "dim and not radiating upwards," noting "the glow from the lighting goes down."
But residents who attended the meeting nonetheless gave an earful to the new operators, detailing how they'd suffered during the previous management's tenure.
They were surprised to hear that Tavern's southern wing would be reserved for private events, and that those events and amplified music could extend into the space outside.
"I had no idea that the south terrace is going to be used for private parties, tents, music. It’s just one more thing," said nearby resident Steve Ferrin.
Caiola and Salama explained that only ambient music would be played in the main outdoor seating area in front of the entrance, but that private parties could have a band play outside — an idea neighbors couldn't stomach.
While Tavern will be open until 1 a.m., Caiola said he'd obey the city ordinance against outdoor amplified music past 10 p.m.
Zeppenfeldt-Cestero said that restaurant owners on the Upper West Side had to go a step beyond just obeying the rules.
"It’s an urban residential neighborhood. It’s typical of what you’d find in the suburbs," he said. "People go to bed early. The kids go to bed."
Residents were not willing to take Caiola and Salama's word that they would push their guests not to play music outdoors.
"It’s been a nightmare living [on Central Park West] with the old management, and unfortunately I don’t feel very confident about the new management," said Martha Mendelson.
"What you guys experienced was a desperate attempt to generate business late at night with party promoters," Caiola responded. "We haven’t even opened yet, and we feel like we’re cleaning up the mess of that era."
Board members decided to take the new operators at their word and asked that they provide a special number for residents to call with noise complaints.
"We’re going to do the best we can. We know your concerns. We’ve been involved in neighborhood noise issues before," Caiola said.
But not everyone rued the restaurant's impending arrival.
"The West Side is a very big place, and there are a lot of West Side residents that are very excited about Tavern and Katy Sparks, and we’re looking forward to it," said neighbor Russell Arensen.
The committee was unanimous in its approval of the liquor license. The application will next go before the full board in November.