Hotel finds temporary quarters for high-powered patrons during renovation
The Loews Regency Hotel on Park Avenue and East 61st Street has closed for a long-term renovation. The hotel’s dining room has been home to the city’s infamous power breakfast and is where influential leaders from Rev. Al Sharpton to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to titans of the business world meet over toast and coffee to discuss the pressing issues of the day.
The luxury hotel officially closed on New Year’s Day, and is scheduled to reopen in the fall, around November, with revamped guest rooms and a brand-new restaurant and bar. But until then, the big question is, where will the city’s movers and shakers hold their power breakfast meetings?
Regency owner Jonathan Tisch at first expressed concern that he would lose his customer base. But, hotel managing director Stuart Schwartz said, that that was before the hotel made a deal with Park Avenue Winter—the seasonal restaurant two blocks away on East 63rd Street—to host a pop-up power breakfast until the Regency reopens. Park Avenue Winter kicked off its new breakfast season with an event on Jan. 9, attended by Regency breakfast VIPs including former MTA Chair Joseph Lhota and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
“A lot of these folks are loyal to us,” said Lizzie Olesker, who manages public relations for the Regency Hotel. “We accommodate their every whim. They come to us for the experience. We could take this breakfast anywhere, and it would be successful.”
The modern power breakfast was essentially invented by the Tisch family, according to Schwartz. Back in the mid-1970s, the city was in a financial crisis. After the famous Daily News headline “Ford to City: Drop Dead” came out, many government and business leaders met at the Regency over breakfast to see how they could work together to solve the city’s problems.
“Soon, it became known that if you wanted to meet someone important, this was the place to go,” Schwartz said.
The Regency Hotel is also famous for providing its power breakfast customers with exactly what they want. The hotel brought over its well-known seating chart and restaurant manager, Leigh Wynn, who has helped transform Park Avenue Winter and who taught Chef Kevin Lasko the tastes and whims of each regular customer.
“There’s one guy who doesn’t like raisin bran but just bran flakes mixed with granola and raisins,” Lasko remembered. “Another guy likes well-done scrambled eggs with oregano, pepper and a side of sliced avocado.”
Former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton hopes to have his usual order of scrambled eggs with a side of Canadian bacon when he visits Park Avenue Winter next week.
“There’s nothing that will drive a regular customer away faster than a menu change,” he warned. “But I’m going to stick with the Regency, even if it’s a little different. I’ll survive.”
Despite loyal breakfast fans, competition may be brewing. Café Sabarsky on East 86th Street has an impressive breakfast selection, including house-made granola and soft-boiled eggs with brioche and butter. Restaurant publicist Susy Schieffelin said that she has noticed breakfast has definitely been busier since the Regency closed.
But Schwartz is not worried. Right now, the breakfast crowd at Park Avenue Winter is a little thin. Slowly but surely, though, everyone is coming back.
“You know what they say—if you build it they will come,” Schwartz said.
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