One month after closing down due to to the coronavirus pandemic, beloved Washington Heights haunt Coogan’s has been forced to close. Founded in 1985, in the darkest days of the crack epidemic, Coogan’s played a pivotal role in establishing a shared sense of community necessary to turn the Washington Heights neighborhood around. Robert W. Snyder in the book Crossing Broadway, a detailed look at the recent history of Washington Heights and the richness of its immigrant community, wrote of Coogan’s: “They claimed the corner of 169th and Broadway and then, instead of defending it against all comers, invited in the whole world. . . . [It was] very Irish and very inclusive. Whoever you were, you could find a place at the bar, a table for dinner, and a picture on the wall that reminded you of someone you knew.”
Located at 4015 Broadway next to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital and the 168th Street A, C, and 1 subway stops, you were likely to dine or enjoy an after-work beer next to a doctor, an aspiring actor, an MTA employee, or a hospital visitor. In 2018, the actor Lin Manuel-Miranda helped the bar stave off a $40,000 rent increase by spurring New Yorkers to action — more than 15,000 people signed a petition to save the restaurant. Manuel-Miranda’s forthcoming film In the Heights, set in Washington Heights was originally slated to open this summer but has been delayed a year due to coronavirus.
Coogan’s served the runners and athletes who used the Fort Washington Armory
Coogan’s is also a popular spot among the runners who use train and compete at the Fort Washington Armory, around the corner. Christina Traugott, a native New Yorker who ran track at the armory growing up in the city tells us, “Coogan’s will always hold a special place in my heart. The owners were always so kind to us 91st Street girls after winter track meets nearby at the Armory. They showered us with food and love at the end of every long season of long weekends at the track. We’ll miss you Coogan’s but we’ll never forget you ❤️. Thank you for taking such good care of our community for so long.”
The menu had much of what you’d expect in an Irish gastro pub, such as shepherd’s pie and burgers, but also tacos and rice and beans. There was good food here, but also something more — a warm, welcoming attitude. When you entered the room totally filled with photos and paintings representing the history of the Heights and its tossed salad of immigrant contributors, you might ask the greeter if you could use the restroom. The response, with a smile, was “of course.”
In a letter to their fans and patrons posted on Coogan’s website, the owners Dave Hunt, Tess McDade and Peter Walsh wrote, “To all our Coogan’s family that extends from a corner in New York’s Washington Heights to so many in near and distant places, we offer love and best wishes that remain safe, strong and healthy for now and ever.” As of this morning, the website is not loading.
As reported in a New York Times article on the closing of Coogan’s, the owners made sure all of its employees were cared for on March 20th: Hunt, McDade and Walsh “had enough in hand and pocket to summon their 42 employees in safe, small groups — kitchen staff, porters, busboys, servers, bartenders — for paychecks and bags of perishable food, letters for unemployment claims and promises of help and references.”
This article also co-written by Alan Cohen. Next, check out 20 must-visit places in Washington Heights.