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East Village Bar Closes Due to Health Code Violations

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The Mars Bar, a watering hole that's been in the East Village for nearly 30 years, closed its doors on Tuesday due to New York City health code violations. But even if it cleans up its act, the bar will not re-open on the block any time soon. Developers who own 25 E. First St. have gotten the green light to demolish the existing structure at Second Ave. and First St. and rebuild it as an apartment building.

"The Mars Bar was closed because inspectors observed approximately 850 fruit flies in various areas of the restaurant and in a bottle of alcohol," the New York City Health Department said in an e-mail to WNYC. "Additionally, there were conditions conducive to a pest infestation including standing water on a floor near an ice machine; water logged wooden flooring and bottles in a box with fluid in them. The bar did not have a food protection certificate holder present, had a cracked and chipped wall, unsecured gas cylinders and did not have proper test kits for chemical sanitizing of dishware."

A worker at the Mars Bar denied that the closure was due to health code violations, stating, "That happens to every restaurant." Instead, the Mars Bar employee said the venue was being closed due to the building's upcoming demolition.

BFC Partners is planning to replace the existing structure with a 65-unit apartment building made up of 20 percent affordable housing and 80 percent market-priced rental apartments. The building as planned will also have 6,000 square feet of retail space on its ground floor. 

Although its full demolition application was filed and approved in May, according to the city's Buildings Department, the developers have not yet picked up their permit to demolish the building.

A BFC Partners spokesperson said it bought the building from the city 10 years ago but only a few years ago began plans to build a residential building. BFC added it was open to the idea of having the Mars Bar return as a tenant to its original location once the new building had been built. But a Mars Bar employee said it would not be re-opening at the location.

The Mars Bar opened in 1984 as a bar, art gallery and graffiti-laden, well-loved community spot. Its closure marks just one in a series of other East Village institutions that have closed or changed hands in recent years, including CBGB and Brownies.