Dale DeGroff earned the nickname “King of Cocktails” mixing fancy drinks at the illustrious Rainbow Room during its heyday back in the 1980s. “It was an amazing place,” Mr. DeGroff said. “We had a great, great bar. We also had a wonderful cabaret—Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett.”
He’s excited to see that history restored: “I was talking to Barry Wine, who’s here tonight. He’s been talking to Jerry Speyer, and they’re looking to the future—bringing it back to its former glory,” said Mr. DeGroff, as he finished pouring a round of flaming blue blazers during a vintage cocktails event, sponsored by Zagat Survey, at historic Keens Steakhouse on March 6. “Jerry wants it to be the old Rainbow Room again.”
Turns out, they’ve been doing more than talking. Mr. Wine, former proprietor of Manhattan’s acclaimed Quilted Giraffe restaurant, which shuttered in 1993, is now on Rainbow Room landlord Mr. Speyer’s payroll.
“I’m not supposed to talk to reporters,” the towheaded Mr. Wine told The Observer, as he huddled at a corner table with publisher Nina Zagat. The affable Mr. Wine nonetheless extended his shiny new Tishman Speyer business card.
Mr. Wine and Ms. Zagat laughed off persistent rumors that landlord Tishman Speyer would instead convert the historic restaurant at Rockefeller Center into office space. “Then they’re wasting a lot of money on Barry,” quipped Ms. Zagat.
Current Rainbow Room operator Giuseppe Cipriani has agreed to vacate the historic 58,372-square-foot venue on Aug. 1 in order to settle a court dispute with Tishman Speyer over millions of dollars in unpaid rent, dating back to September 2008. Lawyers for Mr. Cipriani were the first to suggest the landlord was bent on turning the eatery into an office—an allegation Tishman Speyer denied.
Whether Mr. Wine has been hired to actually run the storied eatery himself or act as a consultant on the Rainbow Room’s future is unclear. A spokesperson for Tishman Speyer did not provide details.
UPDATE: A spokesman for Tishman Speyer later clarified: “We have retained Barry Wine – who ran the legendary New York restaurant The Quilted Giraffe – to spearhead our search for another great restaurateur who will operate the Rainbow Room in a manner befitting one of New York’s most beloved and iconic institutions. When Cipriani leaves the Rainbow Room on July 31st, we expect to close the space temporarily as there will be substantial improvements made to the space once we have determined who the new operator will be and what their needs will be. We remain committed to utilizing the space to house a world-class restaurant and have no intention of converting it to office space.”
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