When we first approached the now closed Asian Pub, known officially as Cooper 35, we were confused as to why everyone was standing outside protesting — holding various signs written in Sharpie — instead of inside getting drunk, but maybe that was just us wishfully needing a stiff cocktail after a long week. Luckily, Hettie Jones and Eric Richards, two East Village legends, were standing outside to set us straight.
“Do you really work for the Voice?” Jones asked on Friday evening, holding onto the vintage poster of 35 Cooper Square that was hanging around her neck. Her daughter, Lisa Jones, ran a column called “Skin Trade” at the Voice back in the 1980s and ’90s, she said.
Jones herself is an esteemed poet and former wife of Amiri Baraka. Eric Richards is a composer. Both have both been around the East Village long enough to know its history.
“This area has literary distinction,” Jones said. “There were people here who started a lot of the East Village stuff — the poet’s theater and things like that. A woman named Diane Di Prima lived here, she published a magazine that’s in the archives at the New York Public Library. This is where the East Village actually started, and there was a great art scene on the whole block.”
The first of four houses built by Nicholas William Stuyvesant in the 1800s, 35 Cooper is one of the oldest buildings left standing on the Bowery.
“It was build in 1825,” Jones said. “The New York City Landmark’s Commission just dismissed out of hand that it ought to be saved, they said it had been altered. But if you look at the picture, it’s the third from the left here, it hasn’t been at all.”
“If you were almost 200 years old, you’d be altered a bit too,” Richards chimed in.
Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York did an amazing story on the history of the building a couple of years ago, which backs up the stories that Jones and Richards told. The building is a fixture of Bowery life.
Besides being home to the great grandson of Peter Stuyvesant, the building also housed Village artist Stan Sobbesek. Richards told us that “he lived on the top two floors — he had a studio up there — and it was almost like a throwback to the bohemian ’20s, like Romany Marie’s in the West Village where people like O’Neal and Buckminster Fuller and people like that used to hang out.”
The building was sold for $8.5 million in cash a few months back, and according to Bowery Boogie, it is now closed. Saturday was the final closing time at Asian Pub. It is scheduled to be torn down soon, but the date is not public.
The identity of the buyers of the space is still unknown too, but could probably be another hotel or even NYU. It seems every time Asian Pub is mentioned it is referred to as the “NYU watering hole” or “NYU campus bar,” but that’s too limiting. Though it was once known for not ID-ing customers, over the years Cooper 35 became one of the stricter bars in the area. Moreover, the crowd at Asian Pub was as diverse as the Village itself — but yes, it included NYU students.
Directly across the street from the Village Voice offices, the building is indeed a neighborhood fixture. Even the recent wall mural is great eye candy during a walk down the Bowery, and no amount of shimmering glass can replace that. Late as it may be, you can go here to sign a petition to save 35 Cooper Square.
Myles Tanzer contributed to this report.