“It is with a full heart and great joy that we announce the reopening of the Boathouse!” they announced this week in their first social media post since April 2020. “We missed you as much as you missed us! A heartfelt thanks to all who reached out.”
Restaurateur Dean Poll, who has operated the Boathouse since 2000, told Gothamist today, “It’s a relief that we’re going to be back in business, but also anxiety, certainly, of what’s going to happen.”
Poll added that they are just starting to figure out a lot of logistical aspects — how to comply with local health and safety guidelines, including how they space out lines, adding more tables to bar and banquet areas, contact tracing, and more.
“There’s a lot of unknowns, and there’s a lot of uncharted waters,” he said. “We’re going to adhere to and comply with city and state rules, and see what we’re confronted with and adjust daily.”
Initially, Loeb Boathouse will be open for lunch Mondays through Fridays, from noon to 4 p.m., and for brunch on the weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; they are also open for private events. Poll anticipates that they will open for dinner again sometime in May, and have banquets starting in June. But he’s lowering his expectations for any sort of full recovery.
“As of right now, we’re at about 50% of our bookings that we normally have in a regular year,” he said. “That speaks for itself. We are booking more parties, but it’s not going to be anywhere near the volume of 2019.”
All 163 employees who were temporarily furloughed in March 2020 were laid off last fall after the Boathouse officially closed, which according to a filing with the Department of Labor, was due to “unforeseeable business circumstances prompted by COVID-19.” Poll said that they hope to rehire everyone eventually, but for now, they will be rehiring people based on seniority first.
“As for quantity, it will depend, because it takes a certain amount of people just to open the doors. But seeing that we’re going to have reduced hours and less people and less revenue, the people who are highest seniority will come first,” he said, adding that with the exception of one person, everyone they have called so far is looking forward to coming back.
The Parks Department told Gothamist in October that they hadn’t been charging the establishment its monthly license fees during the pandemic-driven closure. Poll noted that the Parks Department has “acted honorably as a landlord” in doing so, and that he was told that they’ll also add a year onto the end of their contract to make up for 2020. So when Poll’s 15-year contract is up in December 2032, he’ll get one extra year of operating the Boathouse.
The first Boathouse was designed by Central Park landscape architect Calvert Vaux in 1872, according to an online history of the current Boathouse. A different boathouse was built in 1924, and it was remodeled and renamed the Loeb Boathouse in the 1950s in honor of investment banker and philanthropist Carl M. Loeb, who donated money to help rebuild it. The restaurant operates under a concession license agreement administered by NYC Parks. It has also become a favorite location to film movies such When Harry Met Sally and 27 Dresses.
Poll, who is also the founder of the Poll Group, which owns Gallagher’s Steakhouse, said that he is hesitantly hopeful about the restaurant, and the entire city, rebounding post-pandemic. It just might not happen immediately.
“Any responsible person would be concerned about the future, as I am,” Poll said. “If you’re not concerned, you’re putting your head in the sand. I think the city is resilient, and I think it’s going to come back…how long it’s going to take to get back to where we were, I don’t have a crystal ball. I’m hearing some people in the industry say 2024, but I am just hoping for the best, for myself and everyone else.”