A year ago, when Mars Bar’s owner Hank Penza told us he was “going to reopen” in the luxury building that replaced his bar, no one could’ve imagined that he’d team up with a founder of Juice Press to open a health-food café selling $200 body oils. But here it is: NatureEs celebrated its opening last night with a party featuring kombucha on tap, smoked coconut chips, and smoothies with names like Starter Wife.
Alain Palinksy, who is no longer involved in Juice Press, is seeking permits to grow what’s now a café with a downstairs yoga studio and health spa into a proper bathhouse with a Himalayan salt room, float pool, and a sauna or steam room.
What does he think Mars Bar loyalists will make of all this? “If they’re going to knock us for not having a bar that’s run down and old and just a dive bar, I think we have enough dives bars in New York,” he told us last night as a DJ spun near a wall of plants. “Let’s talk about how many alcoholics there are.”
But don’t worry, NatureEs has something for them, too: a Total Detox juice made from apple, cilantro, lime and ginger. And a placard in the in-house beauty boutique nods to “Sex, Drugs, and Rock N’ Roll,” even if the “drugs” part refers to hemp seed oil.
Once it gets the State Liquor Authority’s blessing, NatureEs will serve actual booze, as well. The downstairs, where there’s currently a curtained-off yoga room and four treatment rooms for massages and facials, will double as a lounge.
“I want to put chess boards out, backgammon boards,” Palinksy said, adding that the basement lounge should also be inviting to non-partiers who are just looking to chill out and tap into some WiFi. “We’re going to have cuddle parties here,” he joked (?). “Everyone in pijamas and we’re going to hug it out with gong music.”
He may have been ribbing the community board there. Apparently they raised some questions about his floor plans. “They’re like, ‘Why are there all these closets?’ I go, ‘Well, eventually I’m going to build a bathhouse.’ They said, ‘You know what happens at bathhouses.’ I said, ‘If I wanted to build a brothel I wouldn’t be going and spending $80,000 for the brothel.’” (The bathhouse buildout hinges on getting the proper permitting.)
Nevertheless, the upstairs 56-seat café is serving what a chalkboard described as “orgasmic soups.” There are also salads and a breakfast bar where you can choose a base (buckwheat meal, chia pudding, or coconut yogurt), toppings like pumpkin or sunflower seeds, and sweeteners like raw honey and maple syrup. The full food menu, launching shortly, will be all-organic but not entirely vegan: there’ll be some raw, “karma-free” sheep or goat cheese.
Occupying one wall is what Palinksy describes as a “mini Barneys.” Among the items curated by Victorine Deych under the name Sante are natural sunscreens by Suntegrity, soap and moisturizer by Skin Trip, lip gloss by Lily Lolo, sunscreen by Suntegrity, deoderants and body washes by Soapwalla, and a $200 vial of hemp-derived CBD oil by Crystal Pure.
Here’s a look at the juices, which go from $9 to $15.
NatureEs, 21 East 1st St., at Second Ave.