Here’s a rare morsel of good news for the sniveling “old New York” die-hards who still bemoan McHale’s closing and curse Rudy Guiliani’s name: it appears Times Square has lost one of its more Disneyland-ish elements.
“Mars 2112 is going out of business as far as I know,” an auctioneer for Michael Amodeo & Co. told the Transom recently. On January 4, the liquidation specialists auctioned off the science fiction themed restaurant’s space-kitsch memorabilia, including it’s signature attraction, two 30-seat space flight simulators originally worth $1.5 million together.
The 33,000-square-foot tourist trap restaurant was built in 1999, with the vision of Paschal Phelan (an Irish business man chased by fraud allegations) and $15 M. in dot-com boom era money. The restaurant’s flyer guys, dressed as aliens, humiliated the Hachette employees who worked upstairs, but its subterranean simulacrum drew a parade of tourists to 1633 Broadway.
Despite its pricy menu, financial troubles quickly fell upon the restaurant, once favored by Brad Pitt and son Maddox Jolie-Pitt. Mars 2112 first filed for bankruptcy in 2002, citing diminished sales “in light in of the tragic events of September 11, 2001,” and again in late 2007. The restaurant’s landlord, the Paramount Group, fought to have the second case dismissed, in an ongoing clash over the construction of a cooling tower.
As stipulated the restaurant’s original lease, the tower would have made the restaurant’s air conditioning independent from the rest of the building, which also contains the George Gershwin theater. The tower was scheduled to be completed at the end of 2007, three days after the restaurant filed for instant bankruptcy, according to court documents.
Landlord and tenant also tussled over certain late-night parties that threatened the building’s ability to maintain its “Class A” character, in particular, “certain hip-hop/rap special functions, including without limitation, the Planet Rock functions and other events sponsored by the Power 105.1 radio station.”
(In 2000, two men were shot at Mars 2112 at 2:15 after an argument erupted during a party thrown by Hot 97 FM.)
But in recent months, the restaurant had reopened for nighttime festivities.
“I was supposed to have a party there this Saturday,” photographer and party promoter Mike Mogul told us.
Mr. Mogul has thrown a handful of parties at Mars 2112 in recent months, including his birthday party, a Christmas party, and one party that was on TMZ because Shaquille O’Neal, wearing a sweatshirt, cap and sneakers, failed to meet the dress code and was turned away at the loading bay.
Mr. Mogul said he called Mars 2112’s manager after he read about the tchotchke auction on Twitter. The manager told him that the restaurant had been closed, Mr. Mogul explained, and that the space had been sold to a broker who hoped to convert it to retail, potentially an Apple store.
“They probably knew they were closing to it so were like, ‘Let’s make our last minute money,’” he said of the parties, adding that he still has to pick up a security deposit there.
About one hundred people attended the auction, which had a particular draw for arcade game enthusiasts. Obscure offerings from the restaurant’s “Cyber Street” game room included Frankenstein and Attack from Mars pinball machines, Sega Star Wars Trilogy, Smack an Alien Redemption, Mini Dunx Basketball, air hockey and skee ball.
The night before the auction, however, many of the choice games were unfortunately repossessed by vendors with leases or liens on them, including the Mars pinball machine.
“I was excited by the chance to purchase the Attack From Mars machine and I was disappointed that it wasn’t there,” said auctiongoer Charlie Niesenbaum.
The games too had seen better days. The Frankenstein pinball had a broken launch and two broken flippers, according to a pinball expert who disassembled it pre-auction. It sold for $650.
“I thought the Frankenstein machine was worth at most 400 dollars,” Mr. Niesenbaum said.
When reached by The Transom, Paramount Group vice president Peter Brindley declined to comment.
Down at Mars 2112, the phone rang off the hook.