The Cornelia Street Cafe: Nearing 40, And In Need of Help

The Cornelia Street Cafe which opened its doors in July 1977 needs your help.  In 1998, the Cafe was one of the restaurants recognized by GVSHP with one of our annual Village Awards presented to “Cornelia Street Restaurants”.  We recently received this email from them:

“It is time for us to protect the legacy of the Greenwich Village coffeehouse–open, freewheeling, vital; dedicated to community, to discourse, to experiment, and to the 18th century art of conversation… This is a plea for help. My dears, We are in trouble.”

Classic Greenwich Village cafe.

“Our rent is 77 times what it was when we opened. Other costs have risen proportionately. We are not alone–many small businesses have closed. As a result, our legacy and the values we hold dear, the values of the Greenwich Village coffeehouse– arguably more vital now, in this political climate, than ever– are in danger of extinction.”  As Robin Hirsch, the Minister of Culture there put it, where else can trombonists talk with stilt walkers?

There are many ways to help.

Go visit, or breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner. Or all four!

An example of one of the many performances.

And they have a full schedule of performances and events here.

You can support them via Fractured Atlas that is accepting support for their Cornelia Street Underground initiative.

It’s important to remember the cafe’s origins.  In May 1977, three artists stumbled across a tiny storefront in the heart of Greenwich Village and thought it the perfect place to open a café. For two months they scraped and sanded, plumbed and plastered, and navigated complicated bureaucracies, and on the weekend of July 4, 1977,  they opened the Cornelia Street Café.”

Charming dining area.

Over the last almost 40 years the cafe has quintupled in size, it has won numerous awards both for its food and for its performances, but it has remained at heart an artists’ café. Singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega started out there, as did Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. Senator & presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy & attorney-activist William Kunstler have read their poetry; Dr. Oliver Sacks used to read his prose. Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann presents a monthly Science Series; members of Monty Python & the Royal Shakespeare Company intermittently perform. Cornelia Street now offers some 700 shows a year, two a night, ranging from science to songwriting, from Russian poetry to Latin jazz, from theatre to cabaret.

In 1987, on their 10th anniversary, Mayor Koch sent them  a charming letter, naming us “a culinary as well as a cultural landmark” and saying “thanks to you, the tradition of the Greenwich Village coffeehouse is alive and well.”  Like them on facebook. Help them make it  to 40 years. . . and beyond.

Let’s end with Mr. Hirsch, the Minister of Culture, in his New York On My Mind interview.  His answer to the question what is the craziest thing about living in the City? “That there are still people who have not been to the Cornelia Street Café!”

Check out this video and get thee to Cornelia!

You can also nominate another local business you love to receive our Business of the Month award here, only  takes 1 minute!

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Harry Bubbins