Cornelia Street Cafe And Underground To Close On January 2, 2019
On its tenth anniversary, New York City Mayor, Ed Koch, named the Cornelia Street Cafe "a culinary as well as a cultural landmark." Now that landmark will close its doors at 29 Cornelia Street for good on January 2, 2019. A year ago, The New York Times reported that the Cafe was in trouble, with a soaring rent threatening closure. An official reason for the shuttering has not been revealed, but according to DNAInfo, landlord Mark Scharfman is "a frequent fixture on various 'Worst Landlord' lists."
The Cornelia St. Cafe opened in 1977 as a one-room cafe with a toaster oven and a cappuccino machine. Founders Charles McKenna, an Irish-American actor; Raphaela Pivetta, an Italian-Argentinian-Canadian visual artist and the Anglo-German-Jewish-English writer/actor/director Robin Hirsch grew the Cafe into a restaurant and underground space famous for its poetry readings, music and other cultural events. Hirsch, who has been the face of the Cafe, nicknamed the Minister of Culture, Wine Czar and Dean of Faculty, broke the news, writing "I am sad to say that I am losing my oldest child. Cornelia has brought me both joy and pain, and it is with a broken heart that I must bid her adieu."
The Cafe can lay claim fame to many firsts. The Roches, a vocal group of three Irish-American sisters started out there, as did Suzanne Vega. Eve Ensler launched The Vagina Monologues at the Cafe. John Oliver, Amy Schumer, and Hannibal Buress have all tested material there. Senator Eugene McCarthy read his poetry and author/neurologist Oliver Sacks read his prose in the performance space. These luminaries only scratch the surface of the cultural bounty presented at Cornelia Street-700 events annually for more than 25 years (which will continue until the doors are closed for good).
Like the late, legendary Caffe Cino, located next door at 31 Cornelia Street, the Cornelia Street Cafe became a go-to hangout for creatives, continuing the tradition of Greenwich Village as a center of artistic activity. (Read about the remarkable history of The Village here.) The closure of the Cafe is, to many, another nail in the coffin of the vitality and diversity that makes New York City vibrant. The loss of a performance stage and a restaurant with still reasonable prices is, to a host of performers and patrons, a cause for further shock and dismay in a city becoming increasingly homogenized and culturally bland. Regular Cafe performer, the multi-instrumentalist, jazz pioneer David Amram said, "This special place cannot be allowed to close, it's too important. What a shame and what a loss it would be." Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann, who has curated a science program at the cafe for almost 20 years, calls it "the bohemian café of your dreams."
Sadly, the closing of The Cornelia Street Cafe is part of a downward spiral of closings of Village landmarks. Amy's Bread on the corner of Bleecker and Leroy has just announced its closing. The Riviera, which closed its doors in August 2017 after48 years in business, still remains shuttered. To read more about the demise of Greenwich Village and the too-high cost of doing business in the City of New York, click on these links: Patch Times Guardian