Beloved Mars Bar Owner Hank Penza Dies at 82

Posted on: November 5th, 2015 at 5:03 am by

This image has been archived or removed.

Photo: The Villager

Word came down the pike yesterday that beloved bar owner Hank Penza passed away this week at the age of 82. While you may not have known the man, you most likely knew his establishment. Two words – Mars Bar.

Clayton Patterson shared the sad news on social media, and noted simply, “He was one of the last real old school warriors left in the hood.”

Another local creative, artist Antony Zito, echoed those sentiments and further confirmed the passing, “[Penza] died suddenly, a block from the late Mars, with his closest friend and a smile on his face. He was 82. Whatever may have remained of the New York he knew left this earthly plane with him.”

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Hank Penza with Zito, Photo: Antony Zito

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.

We loved it. 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 is still on the liquor license for the commercial business in what was the Mars Bar footprint – NatureEs. That juice bar concept went belly up in August.

Penza had other bars besides Mars Bar, though. All on the Bowery: Hank’s Crystal Palace, Willie’s, the Penthouse. Check out this Observer article from 2005 to learn more about his colorful history (e.g. declining an offer to join the mafia).

This image has been archived or removed.

Photo: Clayton Patterson

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