NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – After more than 35 years, a Washington Heights staple is closing its doors.
A Washington Heights institution since 1985 and a beloved place for the community to gather to create memories, Coogan’s was a fixture in the neighborhood.
Known for its great atmosphere and comforting food, over the years, the Irish pub was frequented by many well-known names, including celebrities and politicians alike.
Dave Hunt is one of the pub’s three owners.
“I think every ethnic group, every political persuasion felt that this was their home base, and we did nothing to dispel that. We made everybody feel as comfortable as possible coming into Coogan’s,” Hunt said.
He says the group was planning to retire in 2021, but was looking forward to one more strong year to say goodbye.
The coronavirus made that impossible.
“That business model of camaraderie, of pushing tables and chairs together and adding, you know, a party of eight comes in and then four more people show up and you push a table together and you sort of cram them in,” Hunt said. “I think it will be a long time before people will want to be that close to other people.”
Coogan’s says its menu items were fairly priced, so it didn’t make a lot of money on its menu items.
Instead, it made a profit when customers would come into the restaurant and enjoy beverages with their meals. For that reason, delivery or takeout were not viable options.
In 2018, after a dispute over a rent hike by landlord New York Presbyterian, an online petition garnered thousands of signatures in support.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton” and longtime customer, stepped in to help negotiate, too.
This time, Hunt says New York Presbyterian has been more than accommodating, suspending rent for three months, but with other costs, including insurance, the owners say it just doesn’t make sense to go on.
“It was just impossible for us to stay open, and I do not see the restaurant industry bouncing back with six-foot distancing,” Hunt said.
The news of the closure is devastating to the community.
“I’m sad to hear that it’s closing down being that it is an institution in this particular neighborhood,” one resident said.
The owners are also crushed.
“What do you think you’ll miss most?” CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon asked.
“Oh, definitely the people. Definitely the customers. They’ve become a part of our family,” Hunt said.
They say they’ll miss their customers more than they can put into words and are wishing everyone good health during this pandemic.