West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 15 | September 12 - 18, 2007

Mo’s tries to go on with the show, but may sell out

By Patrick Hedlund

Say it ain’t so, Mo.

The owners of the East Village venue Mo Pitkin’s plan to fight to keep their two-year-old space alive despite recently putting it up for sale.

The multilevel Avenue A restaurant, bar and performance space, which opened in 2005 under the ownership of brothers Phil and Jesse Hartman, both of the Lower East Side, recently came on the market under Manhattan brokerage Walker Malloy & Company, fueling speculation that the increasingly popular “House of Satisfaction” had already been shuttered.

Reports of Mo Pitkin’s death were premature, said Phil Hartman, although the HOWL! Festival founder and Two Boots pizzeria and Pioneer cinema owner admitted that running a nightclub in the city has presented its share of challenges.

“As everyone knows, NYC is a brutal environment in which to keep a club going,” he told The Villager in an e-mail, “but we’re continuing to do everything we can to keep Mo’s going.”

The commercially and residentially zoned building, which features full-service restaurant, bar and performance spaces, as well as a duplex penthouse apartment and highly prized liquor license, comes with an asking price of $5.9 million, according to Walker Malloy.

“Rumors of their demise are exaggerated,” acknowledged Rafe Evans, the brokerage’s vice president and agent handling the sale. “They’ll only sell if they get a reasonable offer.”

Evans did concede, however, that the Hartmans’ pizzeria chain operations offer a much different — and more viable — economy of scale than a Downtown nightclub.

“[Mo’s] doesn’t fit with their portfolio that well,” Evans added. “They’re choosing to focus their efforts, if they can capture the equity of the building.”

The prime location at 34 Avenue A, between Second and Third Sts., should help the property find a buyer, but Hartman said he is committed to maintaining a full roster of weekly acts until a final decision can been made.

“Dwelling on anything else will make it impossible for us to exist,” he noted in an e-mail.

One of Mo Pitkin’s most popular performers, drag king Murray Hill, said he wasn’t shocked by the announcement, since the comic witnessed clubs closing like clockwork during a decade on the Downtown circuit. Hill claimed that since the shuttering of the former venue Fez a few years ago — which was before the performer joined on at Mo’s — no nightclub that would host his type of act has remained open for more than two years.

“I’ve been doing shows in New York about 10 years, and I think I’ve been hardened enough the last five years that I wasn’t surprised,” Hill said of Mo Pitkin’s possible sale. “Really nothing’s staying open these days.”

The entertainer also cited the neighborhood’s diversity and grounded personality — and, specifically, Mo’s “Catskills aesthetic and old-style Jewish vibe” — as reasons for his act’s success Downtown.

Evans nonetheless touted the building for its “ ‘A’ condition,” from the new copper and joists to air conditioning, adding there is no better time for the Hartmans to capitalize on the property.

But for Hill, the preferred venues for gender-bending lounge acts like his continue to disappear Downtown.

“I really hope that someplace — and hopefully its Mo’s — can keep chugging,” Hill said.

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