First Look At The Chase Bank Takeover Of Former Coffee Shop Space In Union Square
Last year’s shuttering of the late-night haunt Coffee Shop sparked heightened angst among New Yorkers. Not only did the diner—known, in part, for being a cool hangout spot that drew models and celebs—operate for 28 years, but its iconic, old school facade and throwback neon sign (which it had kept from a previous tenant) at a very high-profile location made it a Manhattan landmark.
The malaise only deepened this summer, when the news came that Chase bank would be one of the new tenants taking over part of the space, at 16th Street and Union Square West.
Now, the bank has started fitting out the new branch, and as expected, erasing the vestiges of the past. Gone are the retro diner booths and lemon yellow tables surrounded by mix-and-match mid-century chairs. They have been replaced by shiny white floors, flat screen monitors and some very large and new-fangled ATMs.
Perhaps most disconcerting to fans of vintage New York, the old neon sign is also gone. (It’s unclear if it will return.)
A spokesperson for Chase declined to offer details, but said the bank would have some more information about the new location next week.
Over the years, the proliferation of bank branches where local businesses once operated has infuriated many New Yorkers. In 2012, the City Council approved a zoning change proposed by then Council member Gale Brewer that limited the size of street-level storefronts occupied by banks on the Upper West Side. And now the latest takeover at Union Square has some New Yorkers once again asking what can be done to stop the march of conglomerates and chains.
Is it possible for community boards or Mayor to cap the number of mega conglomerates that come into a neighborhood via zoning? If liquor stores, cannabis shops & sex businesses can B restricted, why can’t NYC do the same with Chase, Citi, Walgreens, etc…@NYCMayor @jenist
— Tim Hayes (@TimHayesNYC) December 9, 2019
While the rise of online financial apps and websites has diminished the need for brick-and-mortar locations with human tellers, the consumer banking industry still has an outsized presence in the city. A recent Crain’s New York story reported that New York has 1,757 bank branches, more than before the financial crisis.
In what may offer some consolation, the other tenant for the space, vegan food chain by CHLOE (opening later this week), has said that its interior will pay homage to Coffee Shop by including “intimate round banquette seating” and “a nod” to the restaurant’s original neon sign. It is set to open this week.
Ironically, when Coffee Shop opened around 1990, it replaced another coffee shop called… Chase. In addition to the neon signage, the new owners had left the Chase coffee shop insignia carved in the floor outside one of the doors.