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Raising a glass in memory of Coogan’s

April 21, 2020

 

Our trip to New York City last month was marked by disappointment.

 

My runner daughter had been invited to compete in the New Balance Nationals, and we were consistently told that the race was on. So, although worried about increasing reports of the virus, we flew, with hopefulness, to New York. But, at the last minute, the event was (quite understandably ) scrapped.

 

As concern about the virus in New York began to heighten, we tried to enjoy the remaining days of our visit as best we could, happy for the opportunity to spend time with my sister-in-law and her family.

 

Among the bright spots along the way was dropping into a place called Coogan’s for lunch. We spotted it as we walked along after picking up some take-home gear from race headquarters at the nearby Armory.

 

The pub reminded me of a favorite spot from my college days called O’Phelan’s. We felt the warmth of the Coogan’s staff and management, who came and commiserated with my daughter over the cancellation of the race.

 

That was my first visit to Coogan’s, and apparently it was my last.

 

Reports are out today that the upper Manhattan Irish pub/restaurant has closed for the final time after 35 years. Turns out, I was one of the final customers, too, an honor I will proudly carry. We were there about a week before they closed on March 17. The owners shared the sad news today that they will not be able to reopen.

 

Jim Dwyer wrote a wonderful story about it in the New York Times, headlined, Coogan’s Is Closing. This Is the New York That We’re Losing. It is a beautiful tribute to Coogan’s, in which, Dwyer writes, “was the promise of New York incarnate: multiethnic, friendly, welcoming, smart. The premise of the business was the opposite of social distancing.”

 

I don’t normally remember much about restaurants I wander into while traveling. But I do recall lunch at Coogan’s, and I sensed in my short visit much of what made it so special. The bar carried the aura of authenticity. Real people. Real food.

 

The staff and management working there that day seemed genuinely disappointed that my daughter would be missing her race. We talked about how the loss of the event would affect the business. My daughter was asked about her favorite running events and how she was doing this season. The people, the menu, the place itself, seemed to proclaim, “All are welcome here.”

 

I recall that a side dish that my wife ordered with her lunch was not included. We mentioned it, the waitress profusely apologized and then brought a super-sized version of the side for free – and so we all got to enjoy it.

 

From what I understand, a lot of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences have enjoyed Coogan’s.

Add this Texan to the list.

On my first and sadly my last lunch there, I had the Dublin Style Fish n Chips, after strongly considering the Shepherd’s Pie.

 

I regret that I did not have a beer. Looked like a great place for it – the kind of place where everybody knows your name.

 

So today, I’m raising a glass in memory of Coogan’s.

 

Here’s to you!

 

 

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