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Cafe Le Metro

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Cafe Le Metro, 1964. From left to right: poet Ted Berrigan and Ed Sanders. (Photo: Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images)

Lit Nerd Wednesday!

Even if you think you know a ton about the lost literary haunts of NYC, you come across some surprises like Cafe Le Metro. Situated in what is now bro mecca 13th Step (and before that Telephone Bar), it was located at 149 Second Avenue and hit its’ stride in the early 60’s when the creative set migrated to the East Village after being priced out of Greenwich Village.  The Beats from the 50’s joined the new breed  who read their work regularly here and like the Gaslight and San Remo Cafe in a few years before, Cafe Le Metro  became ground zero of poetry in the East Village.

Artists’ bouncing ideas off each other and reading their work hardly seems like a reason to shut down a place but the draconian laws of 1950s and 60s  New York City government proved otherwise — in 1964 the coffeehouse was slapped with a fine for brazenly ignoring a license law that categorized the poetry readings as entertainment therefore subject to a necessary permit. Le Metro beat that good old fashioned civil liberies violation but fell victim to changing times and closed in 1966.

What: Cafe Le Metro (now the 13th Step)

Who: Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Diane DiPrima, Ed Sanders, Ted Berrigan

Where: 149 Second Avenue

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