Story and photos by Gregg McQueen
Peter Walsh clearly remembers the reaction when he told others he planned to open a restaurant and pub in Washington Heights three decades ago.
“People told us, ‘You’re crazy for opening a business there,’” Walsh recalled. “Nobody wanted to come up to this neighborhood [then] — it was the most dangerous in New York City.”
When Walsh and business partner Dave Hunt built Coogan’s Restaurant out of four vacant stores in 1985, the odds seemed stacked against them, as Washington Heights was besieged by crime and drugs.
Undeterred, the men were intent on running an oasis in the neighborhood, where patrons from any walk of life would feel welcomed.
“A lot of establishments judge the customer when they walk through the door,” said Hunt. “We make no pre-conceived judgements on anyone.”
For three decades, Coogan’s has been as much a community center as a pub — a retreat where people from all ethnicities can raise a glass, community events and film shoots are staged, and leaders, elected officials and locals together break bread.
And the conversation, often led by the affable Walsh, flows as freely as the beer and spirits.
Read more: Toast of this town | Manhattan Times