City Winery opening new venue inside Grand Central Terminal

City Winery, the popular restaurant, performance space and wine producer with multiple locations around the country, is planning to open a new venue inside of Grand Central Terminal.

During a meeting on Monday, the MTA finance committee approved the license agreement for the 15,888 sq. ft. space to be installed in the west part of Vanderbilt Hall. According to MTA documents, it will include a full-service restaurant, a bar/gastropub and grab-and-go food and beverage options.

While this City Winery likely won’t host bands like other locations, some live music will be incorporated: “This location will focus on their farm-to-table menu, their unique selection of wine with ambient background music,” the MTA wrote.

Michael Dorf, the founder and CEO of City Winery, told Gothamist he was not at liberty to discuss the new venue until the lease is officially signed, which should happen in the coming days. But, he noted, “we’re looking forward to telling the world what it’s gonna be soon.”

During an MTA board meeting on Monday, the agency’s chief real estate transactions and operations officer David Florio offered a few details about the new venue. He confirmed there will “absolutely” be ensemble bands playing there, but that they strictly will offer background music, to make sure the noise level “in no way competes with train announcements in the main concourse.”

The MTA has had two tryouts with musicians already, a lunch hour and an evening rush, to test decibel levels. They don’t want the music to exceed 90 decibels, which is considered the sound level of a subway train.

“It’s kind of cabaret seating around a small pedestal, and we’ve limited the ensemble to four pieces,” Florio said. “It’s really intended to be ambient music, which supports a full-blown food and beverage use in the old main waiting area [in Vanderbilt Hall] and then also a gastropub in the interior space.”

Before voting to approve the new venture, board member Neal Zuckerman, who described himself as “a commuter and frequenter of City Winery,” said he loved the idea.

“I must say, I applaud City Winery for doing this,” he said. “I think the city needs it. I think Grand Central will benefit as well as the community.”

Vanderbilt Hall, a 6,000 sq. ft. space adjacent to the main terminal, was built in 1913, and initially was the main waiting room inside Grand Central. It was previously leased to the former Great Northern Food Hall, a popular Nordic cuisine food destination, and has regularly been filled with holiday pop ups. More recently it was used as a vaccination site.

After the MTA put out a request for proposals for the space in September 2020, they held discussions with at least 20 possible retailers before settling on City Winery.

As part of the deal, City Winery will rent the space for at least three years, with an option for two more years after that. Their licensing fee will cost $500,000 and 8% of gross sales for the first year, then $750,000 and 9% of sales for the second year, and $1 million plus 10% of sales for the third year. If they choose to stay for the final two years, that fee will be $1.1 million and $1.2 million respectively at 10% gross sales.

City Winery left its flagship location in the Hudson Square area in 2019 and moved to Hudson River Park’s Pier 57, at West 15th Street, in the fall of 2020, opening in the midst of the pandemic. They tried several innovations, including requiring all customers to take an on-site rapid COVID test in order to eat there, to try to attract customers during the last two difficult pandemic winters.

The Grand Central City Winery location will be City Winery’s fourth venue in NYC, including the Hudson River Park location as well as a wine garden at Rockefeller Center and the City Vineyard in Tribeca. This will be City Winery’s 13th location throughout the country.

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