Central Park’s Boathouse Restaurant to Shut Down

The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, an iconic restaurant and venue that has appeared in a number of film classics and has drawn New York tourists and high society alike for decades, will shut its doors on Oct. 16.

The operator of the establishment, Dean J. Poll, cited “rising labor and costs of goods,” according to a notice filed in July.

All of the Boathouse’s 163 employees will be out of work after it shutters, said Mr. Poll, who has managed the restaurant since 2000.

“It’s a very difficult place to operate,” Mr. Poll said. “It’s the location, the seasonality, it’s access and it’s expenses,” he said of the restaurant, which is tucked away near the eastern shore of the Central Park Lake and not accessible to the public by car.

And yet while it could be the end of the road for the longstanding restaurant, which has changed hands several times since it first opened in 1983, the boathouse, which is one of 400 establishments located on city parklands, will not permanently close.

Officials from the Department of Parks and Recreation plan to find a new operator for the Boathouse “as soon as possible,” Crystal Howard, a spokeswoman for the department, wrote in an email. She also said the department is working “in good faith” with the current operator to accommodate those who have scheduled corporate events and weddings there.

Inflation has surged across the country, with many New Yorkers facing soaring rent and grocery prices. Restaurants have been among the hardest hit sectors amid the coronavirus pandemic. Jobs in the industry fell 70 percent from March to April 2020 in the city, and it has yet to recover, according to data from the Office of the New York State Comptroller.

The Boathouse previously closed on March 16, 2020, and Mr. Poll furloughed the workers then. He announced in a notice in September 2020 that the Boathouse would remain closed for the foreseeable future. But the restaurant reopened in March 2021.

A spokesman for the union that represents workers at the Boathouse said the decision to close in October was deeply disappointing, and added that the laid off workers would be recalled if a new operator takes over.

The Boathouse previously closed on March 16, 2020, but reopened in March 2021.Credit…Nicole Bengiveno for The New York Times

The current brick and multi-columned boathouse, which opened in 1954 after Carl M. Loeb, an investment banker and philanthropist, and his wife, Adeline, donated $305,000 to rebuild it, is the third version to exist since the late 1800s. The first, designed by Calvert Vaux in 1872, was a wooden Victorian structure that by 1924 had been replaced by a simpler design, which fell into disrepair by the 1950s.

As a New York institution, the boathouse has graced the silver screen — from “When Harry Met Sally” to “The Manchurian Candidate” to “27 Dresses” — and hosted the city’s elite, including Ivana Trump and Luciano Pavarotti.

The Boathouse is also a draw for nature enthusiastsand bird watchers, many of whom log their sightings in a Bird Register located inside the boathouse’s lobby.

Ray DeCarlo, 75, has visited the Boathouse at least once a year for the past 20 years for an annual work conference. He said he loved the atmosphere of the Boathouse and how it overlooked the water.

“It’s like you’re in New York, but you’re not in New York,” said Mr. DeCarlo, who lives in New Jersey and was in New York City for the first time in three years because of the pandemic. “I’m very disappointed.”

“There’s so much of that going on in the city,” said Mr. DeCarlo. “I don’t know where we go from here, but it’s not the New York that I know and love.”

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