Vy Higginsen: Sugar Bar With the Stars

January 25, 2012 at 4:00 am


Singer and songwriter Valerie Simpson, center, takes the stage at Sugar Bar, the restaurant she co-owned with her husband Nickolas Ashford until his passing last year. Sugar Bar is known for its lively Thursday night open mics. Photo courtesy of Sugar Bar.

One of my favorite places to hear music is Sugar Bar on West 72nd Street between Broadway and West End Avenue. It was established in 1996 by Nickolas Ashford and his wife Valerie Simpson, the singer-songwriters behind Motown classics like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and the ’80s hit “Solid.” Nick passed away last year, but their renowned Thursday night open mic night is still as lively as ever.

It’s a small space and the menu is simple but flavorful — it’s really about the music anyway. It’s also a great place to spot celebrities. Valerie still sings there and you might see Roberta Flack or Quincy Jones. In 1997 Maya Angelou took over the kitchen to prepare a meal for a charity event. There’s a whole cadre of real New York folks who frequent the place.

Born and raised in Harlem, Vy Higginsen is an award-winning author, publisher, playwright, media personality and philanthropist. In 2006, she founded Gospel For Teens, a free educational program for young people between the ages of 13 and 19.

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