...a welcome reminder that bars are primarily communal centers, especially valuable for those who have access to few other public spaces. For most of their customers, alcohol is a means, not an end ... Bars have long been part of the fabric of individual and collective lives. Their decline should trouble us. Michaud’s book can be sentimental about the “safety, community, and solace” Coogan’s provided and sometimes gets too caught up in the details of its management, but it successfully communicates a sense of loss and shows a generous sensitivity to its subject. Often, it reads like a work of salvage anthropology, an attempt to preserve in words a vanishing communal institution we will all be poorer without.
Favorite bars are a matter of personal taste, and I confess that from Michaud’s depiction, however loving, I would not have naturally been drawn to Coogan’s ... Michaud, a novelist, has the perspective of both the insider and the outsider, having married into a Dominican family, and into the neighborhood. His interest is personal and it shows. Descriptions of history and boundary lines, community affairs and social unrest are given as much time as the highly granular accounts of the day-to-day demands of restaurant ownership, rent negotiations and employee relations ... There are many names in this book. Hundreds — and most don’t reappear. While this serves to show the breadth of the author’s research, it does less for the book’s depth. A note on sourcing makes it clear that a good deal of the material was gathered through interviews, often by phone during the pandemic. This may have been beyond the author’s control, but feels limiting ... From these few pages of more personal writing, one has the sense of an earnest, inquisitive and genial customer, if not someone who kept his internal stenographer on call at all hours of the night.
Last Call at Coogan’s serves as a memorable Irish wake in book form for a beloved establishment where the owners looked out for the patrons as much as for themselves. Librarian and author Michaud offers a touching chronicle of a beloved New York watering hole.
Michaud provides cameos of the owners, workers, and regulars and a rich accounting of the pleasures and woes of this remarkable neighborhood social institution. Warm, humane, and generous, this book ticks every box for a pleasurable read.”