Last Call at Coogan’s: The Life and Death of a Neighborhood Bar

St. Martin’s. Jun. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781250221780. $29. BIOG
This lovely book stems from a New Yorker article by librarian Michaud (When Tito Loved Clara) about the demise of his favorite neighborhood bar. If it were an obituary, it would read something like this: Coogan’s. Born 1985, located on the west side of the Bronx, not far from the George Washington Bridge and one block from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. It’s an Irish bar whose Irish American owners believed in having a multicultural staff; its longtime greeter was Black, and bartenders and servers were Dominican and Indian. Patrons were of diverse backgrounds; they were hospital workers, cops, politicos, and neighborhood residents who valued a good time. Life at Coogan’s was the opposite of social distancing, but by 2020, gentrification and rising costs put the restaurant at risk. Then came the pandemic. Michaud provides cameos of the owners, workers, and regulars and a rich accounting of the pleasures and woes of this remarkable neighborhood social institution.
VERDICT Warm, humane, and generous, this book ticks every box for a pleasurable read.
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