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After a series of pandemic fits and starts, the legendary Central Park Boathouse restaurant will close this fall, citing financial instability.
The Loeb Boathouse, adjacent to the Eastern side of Central Park Lake, will shutter its doors this October. The eatery had previously closed from October 2020 to March 2021. Originally opened as a restaurant in 1954 (though 1870s and a series of fires and renovations), the Boathouse was long a landmark for locals and visitors alike and depicted in countless New York films, including The Manchurian Candidate and When Harry Met Sally.
According to a notice from the New York State Department of Labor, owner Dean Poll of the popular restaurant cited labor shortages and rising operating costs as reasons for the closure. The restaurant will lay off all of its 163 employees, a move called “very disappointing” to the Patch by the Hotel Trades Council Union, which represents the workers of the boathouse.
Owner Dean Poll told the Patch that “The economics just don’t work anymore. The Boathouse is a beloved place in the city of New York, for New Yorkers and tourists alike — but the current economic situation does not permit it to sustain itself.” Poll added that “COVID has nothing to do with anything. The volume was there. But the expenses just eat away at it.”
Poll, who also owns Midtown’s Gallagher’s Steakhouse on W52nd Street, also previously owned Central Park’s Tavern on the Green. But shortly after being awarded the concession by the New York City Parks Department, Poll clashed with the restaurant union over a proposed nullification of their previous contract that cut salaries, benefits and vacation time. The dispute led to a 44-day strike of both the Tavern on the Green workers and Boathouse employees against Poll, who ultimately settled a contract with Boathouse staff but failed to reach an agreement with Tavern on the Green. The Tavern never opened under Poll’s ownership and went bankrupt before being taken over by its current owners Jim Caiola and David Salama in 2012. Poll is also the subject of a 2018 lawsuit alleging that he stole wages and harassed workers at the Boathouse. The lawsuit is still pending.
As for the Boathouse — Parks department spokesperson Crystal Howard said in a statement that “It is our intention to engage a future operator as soon as possible. We are working in good faith with the current operator in an effort to accommodate those individuals who have an event already scheduled at the Boathouse.”
Until the next operator moves in, we’ll just have to rely on the many New York Boathouse moments memorialized forever on film.