Sale Alla Cipriani: Five Restaurants That Hit The Auction Block

by HUNTER GORINSON · September 14, 2010

The local tabloids were all aflutter last week with word that the Cipriani “restaurant empire” would be auctioning off everything from their flatware to brand name to make good on $7 million worth of debt. Now that the New York Supreme Court has issued a stay of execution for the multigenerational, restaurateur familys four Manhattan locations. -- Harry Cipriani, Cipriani Downtown, Cipriani 42nd Street and Cipriani Dolci -- the creditors are being held at arms length, but collectors and competitors alike are still licking their chops at the prospect taking home even a small part of the Italian-based enterprise’s New York holdings. -

Still, Cipriani is neither the first nor the oldest titan of the restaurant business’s old guard to face down the prospect of having its assets carved up and sold piecemeal to the highest bidder. Here are just five once thought insoluble eateries that ended up at the end of an auctioneer’s gavel:

Tavern on the Green

Location: Central Park, NYC Owner: Jennifer Oz Leroy Sold: January 2010 Reason: Filed for Chapter 11 after accruing $8 million plus in debt Former Clientele: Fiorello La Guardia, John Lennon, Grace Kelly, The Ghostbusters Items: The works -- 1,000 upholstered chairs; 54 place settings; 45 chandeliers; 24 copper and gold weathervanes; one outdoor seating tent; one Wurlitzer jukebox. Biggest Sale: A 40-foot long mural in the Park Room went to the city of New York for $150,000.


Location: Notting Hill, London Owner: Damien “Formaldehyde Shark” Hirst Sale: October 2004 Reason: Death by trendiness -- and general mismanagement -- after just six years. Former Clientele: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Kate Moss, most of Blur and lots of British celebrities we don’t recognize Items: Aspirin-shaped barstools; martini glasses with snake-wrapped stems; and a slew of Hirst’s own work, including his medicine cabinet installations Biggest Sale: The restaurant’s neon prescription signs went for $119,000, while two of Hirst’s “Butterfly” paintings fetched $655,300 -- apiece.


Location: Hancock Park, Los Angeles Owner: An Italian business consortium Sale: June 2004 Reason: Chapter 11 and a deal for a $20 million condo complex Former Clientele: Charlie Chaplin, Cole Porter, “Bugsy” Siegel, Frank Sinatra Items: Pink fabric covered booths; silver-plated serving dishes embossed with Perino’s seal; a $150,000, hand cut crystal chandelier; and a Steinway piano played by Sinatra himself. Biggest Sale: The entirety of Perino’s circular stairway -- designed by famed Hollywood architect Paul Williams -- was removed and given to the designer’s granddaughter.


Location: Beverley Hills, Los Angeles Owner: Actor Dave Chasen Reason: Demolished to make way for a grocery store. Sale: October 1999 Former Clientele: Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor Items: In addition the doors, mirrors and windows, all of Chasen’s Hollywood memorabilia -- including a telegram from Howard Hughes, autographed photos of Clark Gable and Jerry Lewis, and Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite booth -- was put up for bidding. Biggest Sale: The restaurant’s V.I.P. booth -- where Ronald Reagan proposed to future First Lady, Nancy -- was kept off the auction block and donated to the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.

Maxwell’s Plum

Location: Upper East Side, NYC Owner: Warner Leroy Sold: January 1989 Reason: A $7 million real estate development deal Former Clientele: Cary Grant, Warren Beatty, Barbra Streisand, Bill Blass Items: All tableware and china; Tiffany lampshades; Victorian reproduction lighting fixtures; the bar’s trademark ceramic animals, not to mention some of the staff’s jewel studded evening jackets. Biggest Sale: The singles mixing spot’s (literal) glass ceiling went up for auction with a $1 million opening bid.

[Main photo via NY Times]