Mickey Mantle's Restaurant Could Be Doomed. Should We Care?
The current owners of Mantle's, on swanky Central Park South, have filed for bankruptcy and the rent is now four months past due. A cool million is needed "to get it back on its feet."
Mantle's 25th anniversary is coming up, but the landlord wants them out by the end of May. Bill Liederman, Mantle's original partner when the restaurant opened in 1987, is now back working with the current owners in a desperate attempt to save the place. According to the New York Post, he has a terrible idea: asking former players like Dave Cone, Ron Guidry and Goose Gossage to chip in perhaps $10,000 apiece.
Liederman says that he can't get the current Yankees to even listen to a proposal, saying "their agents just laugh."
I would, too. What's in it for a player -- or a former player (especially former players who never got huge money, like Guidry and Gossage) to sink money into a failing project like Mantles?
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But isn't it possible that some combination of the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball could step in and help transform Mantle's old place into more of a hotspot for New York baseball?
The space isn't small - 240 seats in 7000 square feet. And the rent of $850,000 a year, while steep by non-New York standards, it isn't extraordinary for Manhattan. Why can't it be a regular place for retired player to plug their new books, among other uses? Can't some radio sports show be induced to do regular broadcasts from the restaurant? And if so, wouldn't YES Network be interested in doing an occasional "Live from Mickey Mantle's?" Has a nice ring, doesn't it?
Right now it's mostly a lunch/dinner place for Manhattan businessmen, but surely more could be done to bring in the average fan.
Is Mantle's worth saving? There's no simple answer. I've heard some people say, in effect, "What the hell? All he did is drink there." Yes, but he drank there a lot and seemed to enjoy the place. I saw him there twice.
It is being argued that after all, Mickey only owned a 7-percent share, but so what? As the late, great Bert Sugar put it to me once when we were at Mantle's, "Jack Dempsey's restaurant was a New York institution, and God knows Jack didn't put up the money for it.." (Dempsey's was on Broadway between 49th and 50th. Godfather aficionados will recall Jack's joint as the spot where Sollozzo picks up Michael Corleone for their meeting in the original Godfather).
Sports bars with any kind of tradition are a tough go these days. Mickey Mantle's place isn't to our era what Toots Shor's was to the '50s and early '60s, but it's just about all we've got left.
I think it would be meaningful if it could be preserved and transformed into something better. Twenty-five years may not sound like a long time, but it's one whole generation, and Mantle's already has been around longer than Toot's famous saloon in either of its two incarnations.
Let's not be so fast to let a tradition die.
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