Archive for January 18th, 2018

Service of a Happy Ending: Coogan’s Stays Open in Washington Heights

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Photo: amazon.com

I’m a sucker for happy endings and a recent one that hit the spot is about a 33 year old Washington Heights, NY restaurant/bar, Coogan’s, that was being forced to close when its lease ran out in spring because of a $40,000 rent increase–to $60,000/month–according to harlemworldmag.com.

Photo: phillymag.com

In two days Coogan’s gathered 18,000 signatures on a petition to save the Broadway and 169th Street hangout. Under pressure the landlord, New York Presbyterian Hospital, agreed to lower the rent increase and the owners, Peter Walsh, Dave Hunt and Tess McDade, are staying put.

Before the agreement, according to cbslocal.com, Walsh told the landlord: “’There’s community here, don’t build walls. Don’t pull a plug so fast on a person when they’re still breathing.’”

Harlemworld.com reported: “During the neighborhood’s dark days of the 80s and 90s — which were plagued by drug-related violence — the restaurant remained open, owners told the Manhattan Times. ‘When we opened, we were one of the first integrated bars in New York, and maybe the country,’ Walsh told the Manhattan Times. ‘We were Dominican, African-American, Irish, Jewish, and everyone got along. We embraced the neighborhood. It worked. But thirty-three years ago, you didn’t see that kind of thing.’”

Photo: airbnb.com

“‘We have served a very, very big part of the Washington Heights community in supplying that big living room that these apartments just don’t have,’ co-owner Dave Hunt told WCBS 880’s Mike Sugerman.

“‘Now the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted out and said everybody should get onboard, that certainly helps,’ said Hunt.” WCBS also noted “‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda celebrated his birthdays there.”

It also doesn’t hurt when in addition to hefty neighborhood support your cause is picked up by local media such as The New York Times, harlemworldmag.com, nbcnewyork.com, cbslocal.com, manhattantimes.com and patch.com/new-york for starters.

The owners are good souls—another reason so many jumped on board their cause and why the story resonated with me. Before the agreement happened, Harlemworldmag.com quoted the New York Times that the “owners are using their connections to help the 40 restaurant employees find jobs.”

There’s a flagrant contrast between the approach of this small business and the big ones that in spite of their tax windfall from the December 2017 “reform” bill are nevertheless collectively laying off millions—AT&T, Wal*Mart, Comcast, Carrier Corp. and Pfizer, to name some. Maybe we should rename “trickle down”  “riches up.”

Might this David & Goliath story be a template for supporting other worthy small fries against the greedy big ‘uns? Can you point to  instances where an aggressive collaboration by concerned citizens, backed by a celebrity and media, helped achieve a happy ending for a beloved neighborhood business?

Photo: Coogans.com

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