On the three-block stretch in the East Village that was once at the heart of the city’s counter-culture, there are still cheap sunglasses, T-shirts and teenage punks drinking on stoops. There’s also a Chipotle, a Pinkberry and snazzy, million-dollar condos.
“The changes are certainly reflective of the chain-storing of the East Village,” says Andrew Berman, executive director of The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. And he’s not kidding—even the Continental looks more like Mars 2112 than Mars Bar these days. To get a sense of how the St. Marks stretch has changed, we look back at four St. Marks strongholds that could not resist gentrification.
129 SAINT MARKS PLACE That Was Then: Stingy Lulu’s Cheap and bohemian, this 1950s-style diner opened in 1992 with drag queen waitresses who served up cheap, watery drinks to drag queens and the drunk punks steering clear of Olde English 40s for the evening.
This is Now: Hop Devil Grill A Belgian bar with a snazzy website, blog and the tagline, “A Helluva Good Time.” It had been closed for renovations until Dec. 3, but it’s way more of a drag than a drag show.
24 SAINT MARKS PLACE That Was Then: Dojo The place to go for cheap vegetarian and Japanese fare, especially if you wanted to sit on the patio and talk smack to passersby.
Many lament the closing of Dojo, which still has a location open in Greenwich Village but can only employ half as many smackedout, hippie waitresses.
This is Now: Pinkberry For the five bucks you could use to buy your entire carrot-saucesoaked lunch at Dojo, you can now afford an upscale frozen yogurt. Korean Americans started the franchise, so the green tea flavor with mochi reminds us of Dojo’s ghost.
7 SAINT MARKS PLACE That Was Then: Religious Sex A cult store that sold fetish clothing to celebrities, wackjobs, Goths and the middle-aged men who bought their leather outfits for them. Known for an extensive collection of cone bras and velvet dresses, the store was both mocked and revered by St. Marks regulars.
This is Now: Klong Restaurant A moderately priced Thai/Japanese restaurant that may or may not be popular with wackjobs, Goths and the middle-aged men who buy their leather outfits for them.
15 SAINT MARKS PLACE That Was Then: Coney Island High The legendary punk club owned by D Generation hunk Jesse Malin.
Coney hosted rollicking shows by everyone from seminal acts like Choking Victim to punk godfather Iggy Pop, was the original home of Britpop clusterfuck TisWas and hosted raver mainstay Konkrete Jungle (downstairs, natch), making it one of the most popular Downtown venues.
This is Now: Condos Yes, condos: for all of those people who want to pay out the ass to live on a noisy, crowded, dirty street where nobody wants them. Living here is the East Village equivalent of building atop an Indian burial ground.