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Life Cafe to Become 'Bushwick's Living Room'

By Meredith Hoffman | June 26, 2012 12:20pm
A customer ate at Life Cafe in Bushwick.
A customer ate at Life Cafe in Bushwick.
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DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

BUSHWICK — A new life is coming to Life Cafe.

Life Cafe, a 10-year-old Flushing Avenue hangout, is becoming "Bushwick's Living Room" come July with new owners, menu additions, and the loss of its name (which Jonathan Larson made famous by including in the musical Rent). 

"It's sad to see the brand of Life Cafe be done," customer Chris Baker, 44, said this week at the Bushwick bar, just months after the original 30-year-old East Village location (where Larson penned parts of Rent) shuttered its doors. "I come here every day for my one meal, I call it my 'local'...I come here to relax."

But Baker said he would continue his daily pilgrimage to the hub, since manager Mark Trzupek promised little would change when owner Kathy Kirkpatrick leaves.

"We're trying to make it warm, inviting and comforting," said Trzupek, one of Bushwick's Living Room's future owners, who noted that clients are so devoted to the spot that it's like their living room. "We're improving the menu...adding more vegan and vegetarian options...extending the bar by about 10 feet."

Trzupek said he was excited about the changes, but Kirkpatrick and her husband John Sunderland sat somberly at the bar Monday and said they wished they could keep Life.

"It's beyond our comprehension, we were hoping to go on," said Kirkpatrick, who opened the first Life Cafe as well and claimed the Bushwick landlord did not give her a chance to renew the lease.

There was no answer at the phone number listed for the building's owner, Edward Buchanan.

To Kirkpatrick, 61, Life is not completely over — she is completing a memoir about the bohemian and artist hub, she is building an online log of all the notes people wrote in her cafe about Rent (called RENThead Registers) and she is keeping her website LifeCafe.com, with the tag-line "Life Cafe NYC on tour."

"The upshot is, everything is telling us to go do something else," she said, noting that she and her husband will now travel and visit family around the country and in Europe.

To some neighbors, Life Cafe already has gone downhill in the past few years.

"At first Life Cafe was the only place to go," said Clyde Taylor, sitting in a bar down the road called the Bodega Wine Bar. But he said that as more businesses popped up he stopped going to Life because the management was unfriendly.

"You can't be like 'this is my castle,'" he said of staff's attitudes. "You have to get better, or else."

Kirkpatrick said news of customer complaints saddened her, and that the cafe was "doing very well with repeat business."

One of those regulars, David Jodhan, said he was unsure he'd continue to come back once the ownership changed.

"I'll have to see how things change...this is like my living room," he said at the bar Monday. "Being a lone wolf I can come here by myself and have a casual conversation and never even know the other person's name...but we have this bond, coming here."