New York City Sues to Stop Company From Franchising Tavern on the Green

The one and only, if NYC’s lawyers have anything to say about it. Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images

It’s been a rough run for Tavern on the Green since it reopened in 2014. Two chefs have quit, and critics have been ruthless, saying the food “tasted vaguely of cleaning chemicals” and “recalled the worst of old Tavern,” which was put out of its misery in 2009. To preserve whatever dignity the world-famous restaurant has left, the city has lawyered up and told the company, which it licensed in 2011 to sell Tavern-branded goods, that now it can’t franchise the restaurant. The city actually owns the Tavern name, and according to The Wall Street Journal, it “filed a complaint” in federal court on Friday to stop Tavern on the Green International, as the New Jersey-based LLC is known, from smearing the “celebrated name” any further.

The city’s original agreement gave Tavern on the Green International permission to sell branded olive oils, coffee mugs with the logo, and even franchises, provided it clarified that this stuff had no affiliation with the real restaurant. (There was even a prohibition on using pictures of Central Park.) Last April, the city revoked that consent because, it argued, Tavern on the Green International had failed to make that distinction clear. It started holding franchising discussions four months later, regardless, and now a consulting firm called MBB Management — the company that brought you Chaps Pit Beef and G.Love’s Special Sauce — is promoting Tavern franchises online.

The way they’re described on the website makes those opportunities sound pretty exciting, nostalgic, even downright Central Park-y:

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.

At the bottom, it closes with this head-scratcher: “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.”

The company’s attorney tells the Journal that the city’s lawsuit doesn’t “have much validity,” and it appears their plan is to just keep plugging along. Tavern on the Green Vegas and Atlantic City could already be on their way.

New York City Sues to Block Tavern on the Green Franchises