Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Another NYC Institution Bites the Dust

One fine spring Sunday evening some friends from work and I were drinking our way across the East Village when we decided to have shot at Mars Bar. We were definitely not made to feel welcome there as we didn’t look the part of the Mars Bar regulars, who always colluded with the staff to give a frigid reception to curious tourists, yuppies and others (my friends and I fell squarely in the indeterminate “other” category).

In later times, dressed in a punk or metal t-shirt and putting up fliers for an upcoming punk rock show, the reception there was better, but never 100% friendly. I was never a regular or the kind of disheveled mess that could pass for a Mars Bar regular.

Mars Bar, a definitive New York dive bar, is now closed. It had long been slated for demolition to make way for one of the latest high-priced apartment buildings that are growing in the East Village like a cancer.

Mars Bar took pride in its reputation as a scummy hellhole. Once I arrived there and was greeted by a friend who happened to be drinking there. We made some small talk and I saw a section of the bar that had empty bar stools where we could sit.

“Let’s go sit down there,” I said, motioning to the cluster of empty seats.

“Oh, no, don’t go down there,” my friend warned me. “Some homeless guy took a piss down there.” Sure enough, a second glance confirmed the bar stools were spotted with the territorial markings of the now-departed homeless visitor.

Mars Bars’ bathrooms were among the smelliest and dirtiest I have even been in, and I’ve been in some really disgusting bathrooms. They were even dirtier than the bathrooms at nearby CBGB, which were infamous for their filth.

The jukebox was well-stocked with punk and metal and there was almost always an interesting conversation to be had. You may not always have the best time or the cheapest drinks at Mars Bar, but it would always be damn interesting.

Since I never went there much even when I drank a lot, the end of Mars Bar will not affect me personally. But I mourn for the New York City that we are losing more and more each day. With every dive bar that closes, a city loses a piece of its soul. Mars Bar was a cheap dive, but it was richer in character than most bars in the city, and we need our dive bars far more than we need our office towers and condominiums.

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