Central Park Boathouse

MONEY & BUSINESS: Central Park Boathouse adrift after city rejects $6M offer

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The beloved Central Park Boathouse looks like a sinking ship.

The city turned down a $6 million offer by billionaire investor Andrew Murstein to upgrade and save the doomed lakeside restaurant, The Post has learned.

Under Murstein’s proposal, long-time operator Dean Poll would continue to manage the famed eatery, which Poll plans to close on Oct. 16 due to unsustainable labor and license costs.

Poll told The Post that Murstein’s capital improvements  — including a redesigned outdoor bar, more outdoor public toilets and an overhaul of the Boathouse’s grungy parking lot — “would make it a jewel box and an even greater amenity for the city.”

Murstein, head of publicly traded Medallion Financial Corp., didn’t return calls.

Lawyer Barry Le Patner, who made the pitch to the Parks Department on behalf of Murstein and Poll, said, “Andrew came along and said he’d like to be a white knight.”

The overhaul plan included a redesigned outdoor bar, more outdoor public toilets and an overhaul of the Boathouse’s grungy parking lot.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Boathouse operator Deal Poll
Longtime Boathouse operator Dean Poll plans to close on Oct. 16 due to unsustainable labor and license costs.
Wikipedia

“We were giving them continuity of management, with fresh dollars and Dean to manage it,” Le Patner added.

But the lawyer said the offer was rebuffed — not by Parks but by the city’s Office of Management and Budget, which wanted even more dough, he claimed.

“It was like in ‘Oliver Twist’ — ‘Please sir, I want some more,’ ” Le Patner said.

Asked whether OMB had made the call on Murstein, a Parks Dept. spokesperson said: “OMB is a partner in our concessions process and we value their input.”

Sources said that other bidders for the Boathouse license include well-heeled venue-catering powerhouse Legends Hospitality, which provides food and beverage service at Yankee Stadium and One World Trade Center.

A Legends spokesperson declined to comment.

“We have been negotiating in good faith with our current concessionaire based upon their concerns regarding their contract,” the Parks rep said. “We anticipate  …  to as smoothly as possible transition to a new operator.”

The Post’s Emily Smith first reported in August that a “mystery billionaire” would make the offer. However, Murstein’s name didn’t surface until now. 

Poll said that despite strong business, the Boathouse can no longer make money and faces big losses in the future, due to the union contract with Local Six of the Hotel Trades Council. The contract requires annual 3% wage hikes, or up to $150,000 a year.

Andrew Murstein
The city turned down a $6 million offer by billionaire investor Andrew Murstein.
Brian Ach
Central Park Boathouse
According to the Parks Department’s website, the first recorded boating concession was sometime in the early 1860s.
Getty Images

The union won’t budge on contract terms, he said.

So Poll and Murstein instead sought operating-cost relief on the license agreement with the city. It requires Poll to pay 7.2% of revenue, which currently is about $20 million a year.  Under his and Murstein’s proposal, they’d pay the 7.2% only after the first $13 million revenue in a given year.

They also guaranteed to pay the city at least $560,000 a year regardless of revenue, and a whopping 12% on revenue above $24 million a year.

Meanwhile, Poll said he’s holding about $1 million in escrow on deposits for events booked for the Boathouse after Oct. 16. That translates into about $4 million in revenue, which the city won’t get a piece of if the restaurant closes as planned.



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