08 December 2010

After the Mars Bar, Then What?

A year or so back, the owners of the East Village dive bar Mars Bar painted on their front wall the message "After the Mars Bars, Then What?" This struck fear into the hearts of locals, who thought the joint was closing. It wasn't.

But the question is a fair one today. It was announced yesterday that "BFC Partners, builders of luxury condos like Noho's 48 Bond and Downtown Brooklyn's Toren, plans to renovate part of the row and add new market-rate housing. This will cause the temporary closure of Mars Bar and its neighboring businesses."

More: "The plan is to combine the structures and build a new addition, perhaps bringing the height all the way up to 12 stories.... Mars Bar owner Hank Penza says he'll wind up with a space three or four times the size of the current bar. Oh, he also said this: 'They won't choke me. I didn't get off the boat yesterday with a pound of spaghetti in my hand.'"

So Penza is fine with this. I'm not. He'll have a bigger bar. Great. But it won't be the same bar, any more then Upper West Side icon P&G Cafe is now the same bar it was. It won't be the Mars Bar. The Mars Bar is a beautifully crummy, even dangerous dive. Make it four times its size and it's suddenly luxurious, years of grime and character scrubbed away. Also, part of the bar's charm is it's being the anchor of an equally crummy, low-rise block. The Mars atmosphere will be utterly crushed by 12 stories of gleaming housing.  

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