Tavern on the Green is coming back (with chef Katy Sparks at the helm, no less) but it appears new Philadelphia-based operators Emerald Green Group already have some serious NYC connections—today, the Post reported that co-owner Jim Caiola is former Deputy Mayor and "President Bloomberg" cheerleader Kevin Sheekey's brother-in-law!
Emerald Green Group, which is also run by Caiola's partner, David Salama, won the famous former tourist trap's lease from the city over two other competing groups, and according to the Post, Caiola and Sheekey's previously undisclosed relationship is raising eyebrows. "Off the record, I'm speechless," an anonymous source working for one of the losing groups sad. But city officials say Caiola's relationship with Sheekey, who was Bloomberg's top political advisor during his first two terms, bolstered Hizzoner's possible presidential run in 2008 and is currently an executive at Bloomberg LP, has nothing to do with the Emerald Green Group's selection.
"They won on the merits, and the entire process was handled by the book," mayoral spokesman Marc LaVorgna said of the group, which currently runs the very successful Beau Monde and L'Etage restaurant and bar over in the City of Brotherly Love. And Sheekey, who is married to Caiola's sister, says he had nothing to do with Caiola's venture. "“My wife told me he was submitting a bid, but I never spoke to him about it, nor did I communicate with anyone at City Hall,” Sheekey told the Post.
Meanwhile, though Emerald Green Group did beat out Upsilon Ventures and the local City Winery/Great Performances groups, culinary centrists weren't exactly clamoring to run the famed eatery when the opportunity to bid on the lease was first up for grabs. And the Post's Steve Cuozzo Tweeted ominously, "Anyone who believes there's a "deal" to reopen Tav on Green is nuts. No deal until there's a contract with Local 6, which there isn't yet."
And so, Crystal Room or no Crystal Room, sketchy connections or no sketchy connections, we can all take solace in the fact that Central Park will play host to Tavern on the Green once more.