Reliving ‘The Last Days at Mars Bar’ with Hank Penza [VIDEO]

Posted on: April 21st, 2016 at 5:10 am by
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It’s been six months since former Mars Bar patriarch, Hank Penza, passed away. He was 82.

And almost five years since his establishment shuttered.

One of his closest confidantes, Jenny Woodward, had access to Penza (one of the few, actually) during the final weeks before Mars Bar closed in 2011. She filmed loads of conversations with the man, and assembled a short documentary aptly titled, The Last Days at Mars Bar. It’s a touching tribute that features Penza talking candidly (with profanity) about the beginnings of the watering hole (thanks to Phebes), the origins of the namesake, and dealing with crack dealers on his doorstep.

Best line – “there were no pretentious bullshitters in this place because everybody wore the same hat.”

Also captured for posterity are the layers of grit and graffiti on almost every surface, the bar, the bathroom, etc.

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Mars Bar, November 2010

Penza opened Mars Bar in 1982. It ruled the corner of Second Avenue and First Street for the next three decades. The epitome of East Village flavor, known for its cast of characters, terrible BO, awful bathroom situation, and much more. He worked other bars well before Bar, though. All on the Bowery: Hank’s Crystal Palace, Willie’s, the Penthouse.

In the end, however, Mars Bar faded with a whimper. A Department of Health closure in 2011 proved the final nail in the coffin. Just over a year later, BFC Partners wrecked the block to erect a 12-story market-rate building called Jupiter 21. Penza himself had been on the liquor license for the commercial business in what was the Mars Bar footprint – NatureEs. That juice bar concept went belly up, though, last August and has since morphed into the Alchemist’s Kitchen.

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