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Le Cirque Takeout

Remember the nineties? Fast-acting nostalgists, get your PayPal accounts ready: Big, weird, slightly used bar’s hitting eBay; Ed Koch, for one, won’t be bidding.

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What do you do with the dusty corpse of Le Cirque 2000 now that we’re halfway through 2005? Restaurateur Sirio Maccioni shut down his bubble-economy power-lunch big top last New Year’s Eve, leaving behind an assortment of garish fixtures designed by Adam Tihany as a “provocation” to the landmarked 1882 interior of the New York Palace hotel, where the restaurant was installed in 1997. (“I went to war with the space,” he said.) But fortunately for late-nineties nostalgists, the hotel is planning to put all the plush, vaguely Deco furniture on eBay.

There are more than 60 tables and 200 chairs with which to furnish your apartment and pretend to have Ron Perelman over for dinner. But the biggest prize is the swooping brushed-steel bar with its neon tubing (now partly burned out) and motorized clock that traveled across a wire over guests’ heads (now stopped).

The oval bar unit was inserted, like a ship in a bottle, into the room; because of Landmarks Commission rules, it couldn’t touch the walls, so it’s completely self-contained, plug-and-play. It cost a bit over a million dollars, which the Palace isn’t expecting to make back. “The goal is to find it a home,” says spokesman Pete Holmberg. “It’s going to have to be disassembled to be removed”—and any bid must cover those costs. “It’s not like moving a piano.” But the Landmarks restrictions, it turns out, drove the design. “It forced me to think in terms of a real circus,” says Tihany. “It comes into town and pitches a tent and then they knock it down and leave the square as it was.”

Only this carnival left the tent. The Palace owns everything, since Maccioni got it to do the $7.8 million build-out in return for making the former Helmsley Palace the sort of place where Liz Smith would burble mentions of Henry Kissinger at lunch. Brash as a dot-com stock, the restaurant quickly garnered four stars. Still, Maccioni never really had much use for the hotel he was supposed to glamorize—and after business fell post–September 11, he started complaining loudly about how expensive it was to operate. Now he’s opening a new place in the Bloomberg building on Lexington, and the Palace is getting its restaurant back—just as soon as it can find someone who wants to buy the bar and get it out of there.

Don’t look for the regulars to take it home for old times’ sake, though. As Ed Koch puts it, “I mean, the people at Le Cirque are wonderful. The furniture: not so wonderful.”


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