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

Brilliance Audio. Jun. 2023. 7:28 hrs. ISBN 9798400132384. $35.99. BIOG
Librarian Michaud’s (When Tito Loved Clara) meticulously researched history of a cherished establishment in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood is a poignant exploration of community, camaraderie, and change. This captivating narrative delves into the heart of Coogan’s restaurant and bar, tracing its ownership and impact from its opening in 1985. Michaud describes how the establishment navigated challenges, including the increasingly dangerous neighborhood, political turmoil, the shadow of 9/11, gentrification, and the final blow of COVID, which resulted in its closure in 2020. Threatened by gentrification and a proposed 300 percent rent increase, the neighborhood rallied with politicians, celebrities (including Lin-Manuel Miranda), and steadfast regulars. Supporters hoped to compel the landlord, New York–Presbyterian Hospital, to offer better terms. Years of organizing community events, showing up for customers in need, and being a welcoming place for all made Coogan’s an appreciated part of the neighborhood’s social fabric. Robert Fass’s narration conjures a distinct atmosphere and emotion. His delivery perfectly complements Michaud’s prose, making for an immersive listening experience that takes listeners to the heart of the tale.
VERDICT This well-researched narrative history is a delightful listen and a reminder of the power and importance of community.
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