A series of Avalon luxury buildings have enveloped Mars Bar’s block in a cloak of hastily constructed glass mediocrity. Down the street you’ll find Blue and Gold, a high priced boutique imported to the East Village from East Hampton, the neighborhood’s spiritual antithesis despite the shared geographic moniker. Also on the block is Bowery Wine Company, co-owned by Bruce Willis (who honed his chops as a restaurateur with the highly regarded Planet Hollywood franchise) and easily among the most generic bars an unlucky soul might stumble upon in Manhattan. Across Houston is a behemoth Whole Foods store, saved from complete yuppie oblivion only by the marvelous, cheap beer store at its northeastern corner. True, Mars Bar does have a neighbor in debauchery with The Cock (nee The Hole), the notoriously louche cesspool of a gay bar just an eightball’s throw away. But gone are the days when Mars Bar was the rule of the area and not the exception to it.
As one of the ever-dwindling holdouts of the East Village’s CBGB heyday, any sign of a Mars Bar cleanup or, heaven forbid, renovation is greeted with consternation by it grizzled, stumbling clientele. Rex, the Dee Snyder look-alike who does not appear to have left the bar in eleven years, says the cops (who have busted into the place on the few occasions I’ve found myself there past New York’s 4am closing time) have it in for the joint. But with a set of customers like Rex, Crazy Dave (thrown out of the bar an average of twice a day) and Handsome Eddie (whose Lazy Boy chair occupies a corner), you can rest assured that one of New York’s great bastions of sleaze and grime will not go gently into that good night. Where would East Villagers drink when the sun comes up if it did?