A heartbreaking film from Facebook looks back on the history of beloved New York Irish pub and restaurant Coogan’s. The establishment, owned by Dave Hunt, Tess O’Connor McDade and Peter Walsh, was founded in 1985 in Washington Heights and became a go-to stop for medical staff at nearby New York Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center and for athletes who trained at the New York Road Runners’ Armory track just steps away—it was also known as “America’s #1 Runners Restaurant.” Two years ago, a rent hike threatened to put Coogan’s out of business, but with the help of elected officials and famous nearby resident Lin-Manuel Miranda, it pulled through. But like many in this country, earlier this year it became a victim of COVID-19 and was finally forced to close its doors for good.
The spirit of the establishment, however, lives on, celebrated in a campaign from Facebook. In a heart-wrenching yet inspirational film from Droga5 and directed by Miles Jay of Smuggler, Facebook documents how Coogan’s owners are now directing their efforts to ensure that other small businesses don’t suffer its fate through the “Coogan’s Pay It Forward Community Fund.”
The poignant short, recently released after a shorter version debuted last month, charts the success and struggles of Coogan’s through the eyes of its owners. Walsh makes for a compelling protagonist as Jay’s camera follows him through his day. From the moment he rises in the morning until he takes a late-night run through the neighborhood, we get glimpses of how his restaurant became a part of the fabric of the community. Lykke Li’s melancholy cover of Gloria Gaynor’s classic track “I Will Survive” intensifies the heartache.
The film is part of Facebook’s “Support Small Business” push, meant to inspire consumers to patronize local businesses at a time when they need their support most. The campaign supports Facebook’s “Support Small Business Hub,” a resource that connects people to local companies in need. As part of the push, Facebook is matching up to the first $100,000 in donations to Coogan’s community fund, which at the moment has raised about $10,500 of its $25,000 goal. “With 45% of [local small businesses] not expected to survive the next three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses need our support now more than ever,” Coogan’s wrote on the fund page.
Though well-intentioned, the effort arrives as Facebook remains the target of the "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign, in which brands, celebrities and users have boycotted or suspended their use of the platform to call out its policies that civil rights organizations believe allow hate speech and conspiracy theories to thrive. Most recently, the campaign announced a new push to put pressure on the platform, calling for users to "freeze" their use of Facebook-owned Instagram on Wednesday, with support from celebrities including Kim Kardashian West.