December 2, 2020

Central Park Boathouse Restaurant Closes, 163 Employees Laid Off

Central Park’s historic Loeb Boathouse restaurant, which has been closed since the start of the pandemic in March, has now officially shuttered.

All 163 employees who were temporarily furloughed in March have been laid off as a result. But Megan Moriarty, a spokesperson for the Parks Department, says the restaurant may try to reopen in spring 2021: “We are in communication with the concessionaire and understand they intend to reopen in the spring.” It’s unclear whether those employees will be offered their jobs back if that happens.

The news, which was first reported by The City, came out in a filing with the Department of Labor which cited “unforeseeable business circumstances prompted by COVID-19” as the reason for closure.

The Boathouse was first established in the early 1860s; in the 1950s, it was renamed the Loeb Boathouse in honor of investment banker and philanthropist Carl M. Loeb, who donated money to help rebuild it. The restaurant has operated under a concession license agreement administered by NYC Parks. It has also become a favorite location to film movies such When Harry Met Sally and 27 Dresses.

While the Boathouse could have reopened in accordance with outdoor dining rules this summer, it has not done so since first shutting down. The Parks Department noted that they haven’t been charging the monthly license fees during the pandemic-driven closure, amounting to $23.9 million in unpaid fees, according to The City.

Restaurateur Dean Poll has operated the Boathouse since 2000; he is also the founder of the Poll Group, which owns Gallagher’s Steakhouse, which did resume indoor dining recently. Under Poll’s leadership, the Boathouse has been subject to multiple lawsuits involving sexual harassment, union busting, and more. It has also been very financially successful, with 6sqft reporting that it pays the city “an annual fee of up to $1.702 million or 7.2 percent of gross annual receipts (whichever of those is the greater amount) up to $22 million. Percentages rise when revenues top $22 million. ‘We have exceeded our minimum every year,’ Poll said.”

In 2017, Poll signed a new 15-year license agreement, and it reopened after $2.9 million in renovations and upgrades which added more seats both indoors and outdoors.

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