No Money Mo’ Problems: Pitkins Closes Down


Laura Cantrell takes to the stage of Mo’ Pitkins Sunday night for a few final numbers.

By Julie Bolcer

The distinctive Cuban Reuben sandwiches already a memory, patrons and performers packed Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction Sunday night to bid farewell to the venue that was officially shuttered on Saturday. The 150 final revelers—including Moby and Penny Arcade—who populated the sidewalk, downstairs bar and dining room at the party’s high point seemed sad but resigned to the fact that the nostalgia palace would close after only a two-year run on Avenue A .

After all, as some partygoers noted, from its very beginning, Pitkin’s revolved around something that was already long gone.

“I think we were trying to make a place that didn’t exist anymore,” said co-owner Jesse Hartman, a musician with the band, Laptop, which was scheduled to play during last night’s marathon of final performances along with regulars, such as Murray Hill and Laura Cantrell. Hartman launched Mo Pitkin’s as a joint venture with his brother, Phil, who owns the Two Boots pizza chain and Pioneer Theater, and founded the Howl! Festival of Art. He explained their intended result at Mo Pitkin’s as, “Part Max’s Kansas City, part Second Avenue Deli and part Mercer Arts Center.”

While the Second Avenue Deli has indicated that it will reopen soon in Midtown, Mo Pitkin’s and its Judeo-Latin cuisine don’t have a new home planned for anywhere in the city just yet. When the bi-level restaurant and performance space materialized in late summer 2005, it drew customers with kitsch-hungry palates, as well as downtown comedians, musicians and literary mavens seeking refuge from the successive closure of spots like Fez, Satalla and Tonic.

The Hartmans, however, say that comfort, whether served via food like deep fried mac-n-cheese or in enviable stage amenities, came with the price of a fleeting lifespan. Earlier this fall, Mo Pitkin’s announced that it would close because the cost of developing the facility had created “a debt load that the club just could not sustain.” Now, the gut renovated building, complete with duplex apartment on top and liquor license, is available for more than $5.5 million.

“We hope to sell it to somebody that will keep it like Mo’s,” Jesse Hartman said when asked about the future of the property. Then he added, “Honestly, I don’t know if that’s possible.”