Mars Bar is a grimy, spray paint-covered oasis in the desert of East Village glass and steel super-gentrification. Word is that it’s still the type of dive where you can buy a dime bag of weed, get yelled at by an elderly alcoholic and make out with a teen runaway—all before 8 p.m. Last week, the sympathetic gods were paid some protection with a swirling acid-colored mural of the universal pantheon painted on its facade. It’s part of the dive’s Dante-themed art showcase, Hell Purgatory or Paradise, which officially started on Sunday.
The daytime bartender examined the pieces—including a desert island in crayon and construction paper by Manny Manhattan—newly hung above the liquor rack. Cracking a Stella, Lucille Bignon, who rocks a 1960s-era soul-girl look, complete with beehive hairdo, said: “Everyone here is crazy, you don’t know when they’re going to snap,” Her eyes widening beneath heavily shadowed black lids, she added, “It’s a weird portal to Hell.” A regular sitting on a barstool countered that, “there are no frat boys, so its heaven.”
Pausing as he raised a beer, Kevin Duggan—a graying bohemian hiding behind wide, circular eyeglasses—decided to settle the issue. “Its purgatory.”