January 6, 2010 / 10:20 PM / 9 years ago

Decor from NY's Tavern on the Green up for auction

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Fans of New York’s Tavern on the Green, a lavish eatery popular with tourists that closed its doors deep in debt, can buy bits of its glitz and glitter as keepsakes next week at public auction.

The well-known landmark and one of the few buildings located inside Central Park shut down on January 1, and its outgoing owners are selling its chandeliers, statues and other decor to help retire their bankruptcy debts.

Tavern visitors, who once numbered in the hundreds of thousands a year, will likely recognize the wall murals, Tiffany stained glass, crystal chandeliers, etched mirrors and life-size wild animal sculptures, all up for sale January 13-15.

The outgoing owners, the LeRoy family, have said in court documents they are seeking $500,000 in sale proceeds. They are reported to be as much as $8 million in debt.

But with no minimum price on any of the items, the potential sale total is uncertain, said Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey’s which is running the auction.

Some items have special value, he said, pointing to a shiny baby grand piano at an auction preview on Wednesday.

“John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Duke Ellington all sat down and tickled the keys. That makes it more than just a nice piano,” Ettinger said.

Other pieces are one of a kind, with little precedent to set their market value, he said, adding: “It’s breathtaking, no matter what your taste may be.”

The Tavern was a well-known landmark, amid brightly lit trees, oversize topiary stallions and ice sculpture in winter.

But native New Yorkers tended not to patronize the Tavern, and it earned poor reviews of its food and prices.

“You didn’t come here for the food. You didn’t come here for the service,” said Stuart Laurence, a retired judge who lives nearby and visited the auction preview.

“You came to see it,” he said, “and it fed a lot of tourists.”

The flashy decor came courtesy of the late Warner LeRoy, the son of a producer of “The Wizard of Oz,” who took over the restaurant in 1976. He died in 2001, and his family took over.

The LeRoy family lost a bid to renew their Tavern lease last year. A restaurateur who won the lease has plans to renovate and reopen in the spring but issues, such as who has rights to the Tavern on the Green name, are pending in court.

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