Coogan’s Restaurant, a Washington Heights mainstay, announced Wednesday it would be closing its doors — and backlash to the news was swift.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez put out a call for a strategy and “brain storming session” Wednesday evening at the restaurant, Broadway star and Washington Heights native Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted his disappointment, and a Change.org petition garnered thousands of signatures.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat is also helping to organize an event on Sunday at noon to save the beloved bar, on Broadway near W. 169th Street.
“Coogan’s came in when the Heights was synonymous with crack and drugs and death,” Espaillat said. “When they came up, they invested in the neighborhood. They were one of the first top notch establishments to invest uptown when the neighborhood was going down the gutter. They had a lot to do with the renaissance of Washington Heights.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted Tuesday night that the restaurant is “one of the true Washington Heights mainstays, and has embraced every wave of neighborhood changes. I love Coogan’s. My stomach hurts from this news.”
His father, Luis A. Miranda, Jr., tweeted that he hosted his son’s birthday parties at Coogan’s, as well as community and political events.
Coogan’s co-owner Dave Hunt said the restaurant, open since 1985, plans to shut its doors at the end of May when their lease expires. Coogan’s is unable to afford the $15,000 a month it currently pays in rent, Hunt said, but the building’s landlord, New York Presbyterian Hospital, wants to increase it by about $40,000 each month.
“We’re just keeping our nose above water at that,” he said, adding the increase is “absolutely absurd.”
Hunt said he realized before the holidays that the bar would have to close, and went through a lot of emotions then. But seeing the outpouring of support, he said a whole new wave of emotion has taken over.
“Perhaps we did not realize how important in people’s lives we were,” he said. “The theme that keeps coming back to me is how thoroughly integrated we were, and it worked.”
A representative for New York Presbyterian did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said the hospital is trying to increase the rent by “too much” and said she would help work to make it more “reasonable.”
“It’s very much an anchor for the hospital,” Brewer said. “Any day you’ll see hospital employees, families of patients . . . I want it to be a win-win.”
In addition to the events planned, a Change.org petition had obtained more than 4,000 signatures as of late Wednesday afternoon, promising to deliver the petition to Steven J. Corwin, president and CEO of the hospital.
Washington Heights resident Martiza Melendez, 58, said she was “heartbroken” when she heard of the bar’s closing. She’s been going since the 90s.
“Not only is this a good place to eat, it’s also a good place for respite,” she said, adding that the owners make people feel welcome. “It has a calm, relaxed, family feeling.”
When Brooklyn native and current South Carolina resident Ken Bohan, 55, heard Coogan’s was closing, he knew he had to come.
“I’ve been coming to the neighborhood since I was in high school in the 70s and it used to be rough,” said Bohan, who retired from the FDNY. “All of a sudden this opens up and everyone came in. I’ve been in here with nurses, firefighters, community people, people from different jobs, different ethnicities.”
Despite the overwhelming support, Hunt isn’t overly confident that the community’s efforts will work.
“At no point in time did the guy who was negotiating . . . lean across the table and say ‘c’mon guys, lets make this work.’”