Who Could Get Rainbow Room’s Pot of Gold?

“Certainly, the premier operators will get a look at it,” said Jeffrey Roseman, executive vice president of Newmark Knight Frank

“Certainly, the premier operators will get a look at it,” said Jeffrey Roseman, executive vice president of Newmark Knight Frank Retail. “I think Tishman will have their choice, depending on the economics. It’s so prestigious. It’s like the Yankee Stadium of restaurants.”

Mr. Roseman mentioned Mr. Nieporent of Nobu and former Rainbow Room operator David Emil as likely candidates “on the short list of guys who could pull it off.”

Mr. Nieporent and Mr. Emil previously partnered with the late Joseph Baum, another former Rainbow Room proprietor, in an ambitious, albeit ultimately unsuccessful, bid to expand the sprawling space to additional floors with aims of earning up to $40 million annually.

A relative of Baum’s, restaurant publicist Jennifer Baum, expressed hope that the Ciprianis’ successor might restore some of the Rainbow Room’s old charms. “When Joe Baum had it, New Yorkers actually went there,” Ms. Baum said. “The bar was the greatest bar to go to. And when the Ciprianis took it over, they took that away. Whoever goes back in there has to understand that a piece of the Rainbow Room has to be given back to New Yorkers. It can’t just be private parties, and it can’t just be for tourists.”

Other runners-up in the last Rainbow Room leasing sweepstakes that the Ciprianis won included Alan Stillman, founder of TGI Friday’s and the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse chain, and Warner LeRoy, the flamboyant operator of Tavern on the Green.

LeRoy has since passed away, but his daughter, Jennifer Oz LeRoy, remains at the helm of the 27,000-square-foot Central Park institution, which earned a reported $37.6 million in 2007, and might toss her own sparkly hat into the ring.

“The LeRoy organization would certainly look at anything that was exciting like that in New York,” the family spokeswoman, Shelley Clark, told The Observer.

Meanwhile, Mr. Stillman, who sold off most of his steakhouse chain in 2007, and who still owns the original Smith & Wollensky flagship in midtown, among other local eateries, said he would love to be in the running for what he called “the most premier restaurant space in New York City, if not the world.” Los Angeles–based Patina Group, which acquired the rest of the beefy chain, might also be a potential suitor.

The obvious name being tossed around is the ubiquitous restaurant-space bidder Danny Meyer, head of Union Square Hospitality Group. “This would be a dream match for Tishman Speyer,” said Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of retail leasing and sales at Prudential Douglas Elliman. “Yeah, there are some other people out there that would vie for it, but Danny knows how to do it. … He can handle the volume and he understands how to make deals with high-profile landlords like Tishman Speyer.”

A dark-horse contender could be Marc Packer, whose Tao restaurants in Las Vegas and New York are currently the first and fifth most lucrative eateries in the country, generating a reported $66.6 million and $26.8 million, respectively, in sales in 2007.

“I could also see a joint venture between a couple of high-profile groups,” Mr. Roseman said. “There are so many restaurant rock stars in New York that really do have the wherewithal.”

The Ciprianis were a somewhat surprising choice at the time of their selection 10 years ago. The operators of the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice then owned only one Manhattan restaurant, Harry Cipriani in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on Fifth Avenue, and notably had no experience in managing a place of such massive scale as the Rainbow Room.

Yet, eventually, the group set a new standard for sophistication in the banquet business.

“It’s not like your grandfather’s catering hall—it’s stylish and sexy and energetic,” said Mr. Roseman, who once represented landlord SL Green in the deal to bring the Cipriani group into the former Bowery Savings Bank at 110 East 42nd Street, now among the city’s most opulent private event spaces.

“It would be a shame to lose [the Ciprianis’] passion and style,” he added. “I just hope that the next group maintains that.”

cshott@observer.com

Who Could Get Rainbow Room’s Pot of Gold?