Manitoba’s punk bar closes after 20 years
BY TINA BENITEZ-EVES
One of the last punk rock bars
in the East Village has closed.
Manitoba’s, fi rst opened by The
Dictators frontman Richard “Handsome
Dick” Manitoba in 1999, shut its doors
for good on Tues., June 25.
For the past 20 years, visitors to 99
Avenue B, between E. Sixth and E. Sevenths
Sts., found a rock ’n’ roll dive bar in
New York City plastered with iconic photographs
of The Ramones, Blondie, The
New York Dolls, Iggy Pop and beyond
from punk’s stratosphere. The bar’s photo
booth captured many a drunken, loving
moment. Meanwhile, the place’s cushioned,
sunken seats conformed to your
bottom and kept you in place, as at any
moment you might catch Manitoba himself
pop in — most likely barking about
his beloved Yankees.
On the two screens, the odd ’60s sexploitation
or music fi lms and concerts
played beneath the music from the bar’s
jukebox, fi lled with punk classics and
even some Motown, doo-wop and Elvis,
in between. Anyone could create their
own punk rock “mixtape” while downing
the beer-and-shot special.
“The bar, in the 20 years, was a rollercoaster,”
Manitoba told this paper.
“At times, it rode high. At times, it went
straight down at 180 degrees. Toward the
end, there were nights when there was
very little money coming in and no one
watching the bar enough.”
Manitoba admitted the bar had fi nancial
diffi culties for a while, which ultimately
led to its closure last month. The
lack of a proper manager didn’t help.
“I took a salary in order to survive,”
said Manitoba, who lost his DJ job on E
Street Band guitarist Little Steven Van
Zandt’s SiriusXM channel, the Underground
Garage. “I came by more often
and watched the door on the weekend,
but I couldn’t always be there,” he said.
“What we needed was a trustworthy and
hard-working manager. As the bar got
smaller, we couldn’t pay for this.”
It’s another loss of a piece of the New
York punk era. Manitoba said losing the
bar has been a blow, along with the double
whammy of what feels like the end of
a longtime friendship with the guitarist.
“With the bar closing, there’s a sadness,”
he said. “It was my clubhouse, and
the clubhouse isn’t there. And it’s the real
end of my relationship with Little Steven
after 40 years. He lost so much money,
and he was getting madder and madder
Van Zandt was a majority owner of the
bar, according to Manitoba. When the
place originally opened, Laura McCarthy
was a partner with Manitoba and covered
more of the bar’s behind-the-scenes business.
McCarthy is part owner — along
with Jesse Malin, Tom Baker and Don
DiLego — of Coney Island Baby, a bar and
live-music venue that opened last April in
the former Hi-Fi space on Avenue A.
Dick Manitoba gave it his best shot, but couldn’t keep his eponymous
Avenue B bar open.
“In a nutshell, my bartender called me
and said ‘Richard there’s no money in the
bag,’’’ Manitoba said of the bar’s fi nal
day. “And I just said, ‘I guess the bar is
The Bronx-born Manitoba, 65, is focusing
on raising his 16-year-old son,
his child with ex-girlfriend Zoe Hansen,
Manitoba’s former manager and bartender.
In February 2018, there was an
alleged physical altercation between the
couple. The case was later resolved in
court and Manitoba pled guilty to disorderly
conduct. The two have since parted
ways after an 18-year relationship.
Manitoba is now living with their son
in the East Village, and Hansen lives in
Los Angeles with her boyfriend. Manitoba
says that his relationship with Hansen
today is nonexistent, with the exception of
his son’s communication and visits with
his mother. Manitoba even wrote a song,
“8th Avenue Serenade,” for his upcoming
album, inspired by a photo his son took of
the couple when he was 10 years old.
Manitoba’s bar may be gone, but Handsome
Dick is going strong. He’s a few
weeks away from signing his fi rst solo
PHOTO BY TINA BENITEZ-EVES
Manitoba’s bar was a mainstay on
Avenue B for two decades, and a
favorite of punk-music fans.
album, the 13-track “Born in the Bronx.”
He has a book deal, and wants to grow his
“You Don’t Know Dick” podcast. And
he has a one-man show he wants to take
Manitoba’s spirit will also live on
through its Web site, which he’ll keep
updated with posts about personalities,
events and news and stories behind the
iconic photos that lined the bar’s sticky
walls. Perhaps the bar may eventually
even get a second life. Manitoba said he’s
been fl oating an idea to McCarthy.
“I have been talking to her about giving
me a spot in the worst bar, where I
can have a Manitoba corner,” the veteran
punk rocker said. “People who don’t
have the Manitoba’s Bar anymore could
go there. If I can make that work, that’s
Schneps Media TVG July 11, 2019 19