Washington Heights community fighting to save popular bar from massive rent hike

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- A rent hike is taking another victim - a popular bar and restaurant in Washington Heights. Coogan's is closing, and the rent hike by $40,000 a month is drawing howls of protests from prominent New Yorkers.

"When we first came here, this was supposedly one of the most dangerous neighborhoods not only in New York, but in the country," says Peter Walsh.

Walsh believed his restaurant would survive - across from Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. Now, 33 years later, Coogan's could be on its way out. The hospital's real estate arm owns the property and is hiking up the lease to $62,000 a month.

"Me and my coworkers come - we come here, I would say almost three or four times a week," says Tanya Zalaya, who works in the neighborhood.

New York Presbyterian said on Thursday,

"Coogan's is a very special gathering place for those who live and work in our Washington Heights community...we have been engaged in good-faith negotiations. We are willing to continue those negotiations in an effort to reach a fair and reasonable resolution."

Molly Clifton has been bartending at Coogan's for nearly 10 years.

"I think the community is really going to rally for us to stay in business, so we're hoping," Clifton says.

There will be a rally on Sunday at noon, spearheaded by local politicians and community leaders with the hopes of putting pressure on New York Presbyterian. The lease ends in May.

Walsh is prepared for whatever the outcome.

"You look up at the bar, it's African-American, it's Dominican, it's Irish, it's Jewish - and we talk among each other. I love that, and I'm proud of it. I might be sad about closing the door, but I'm very proud of what we're going to be leaving behind.
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