When it opened two years ago, Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction, the two-story restaurant-theater at 34 Avenue A, was the promised land for the busty neo-burlesque stars, pseudo-sane performance artists, and guitar-playing trapeze acrobats rendered homeless by the closing of Fez (and Surf Reality and Collective Unconscious and every other small, anything-goes downtown venue). At the time, the owner, bohemian-culture entrepreneur Phil Hartman (proprietor, with his brother Jesse, of Two Boots Pizza and the nearby indie Pioneer Cinema) declared, “We need to make the statement that this is our turf. We have made it what it is, and we’re not leaving.” There was even an elaborate wall mural of downtown performers like Murray Hill, Penny Arcade, and Karen Finley, making it seem like it would last as long as Sardi’s.
But now the building is for sale for $5.5 million—though the Hartmans hope that they can sell the building to someone who will lease the bar back to them. But it’s hard to imagine a buyer agreeing to house a club whose signature drink is the “stump shot,” served out of the fake leg of bartender Mangina.
As a venue, it wasn’t the best place in the city to perform. The ceiling was very low and the room was small. Some complained the service was slow. “At Fez, you’d have had three rounds by the time Kiki & Herb came on,” says one insider. “By the time some shows started at Mo’s, you were lucky if you’d gotten one.” Plus, according to Rev. Jen Miller, the elf-eared, be-gowned performance artist, it never attracted the agent crowd, and was more a clubhouse than a career launching pad. “That used to happen a lot at the old Collective when alternative comedy was really hot,” she said. “That never happened at Mo’s.” She’s going to retire her sublime insanity showcase, Rev. Jen’s Anti-Slam, now in its twelfth year, when Mo’s closes.
Though the club’s still open, downtown’s weary nomads are already packing up their pasties. “When Fez closed, that killed me,” says Mo’s headliner Murray Hill, “but then I adapted to the reality of downtown: Nothing is permanent anymore.” He’s moving his sellout Christmas and New Year’s shows uptown to the Zipper Factory on West 37th, which can fit almost 200 more people. The dingier Bowery Poetry Club will still exist, and there’s the classier, more restrained Joe’s Pub to aspire to. “Like Brownies, Fez, Sin-é, Tonic, and many others before, Mo’s will be just another arts venue replaced by yet another bland, chic meat-market with delicious mojitos,” says comedic ukulele artist and Mo regular Ben Lerman. “The people moving into the town don’t want live entertainment. They just want to get hammered and drag someone home to their luxury condo. Which, when you put it that way, actually doesn’t sound so bad.”