Earlier this month it was Cake Shop putting out a cry for help and this week Alphabet City fixture Manitoba’s is looking to raise funds. The headline of the “Save Manitoba’s!” campaign, which hit Indiegogo yesterday, is dire: “Please help save Manitoba’s bar from being FORCED out of business through no fault of our own.”
The eponymous owner of the 15-year-old bar, punk-rock legend Handsome Dick Manitoba, and his wife and business partner Zoe Hansen write that “sadly, this East Village landmark is now in danger of shutting down. Due to a small wrinkle in the interplay between State and Federal law, Manitoba’s was recently forced to reluctantly settle a case with a private individual for a cumbersome amount that threatens the future of the establishment.”
The case wasn’t specified, but court records show that last summer, Luigi Girotto, a wheelchair-bound resident of Rye, NY, who has followed numerous ADA-related lawsuits, sued the owner of Manitoba’s after he was “denied access” to the bar. His complaint alleged that the rock dive’s entrance doesn’t have a ramp and the entirety of the bar is taller than 34 inches, in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. It also cited failure to provide handicap access to the lower-level game room, a video game, and the jukebox, among 19 other alleged violations. Girotto demanded $500 in damages plus attorney’s fees.
In response to the complaint, Manitoba’s issued a 24-point defense, arguing among other things that it had made good faith efforts to comply with the ADA, that correcting the alleged violations was not readily achievable and would place an undo burden on the bar, and that it had provided “equivalent facilitation” in the form of “alternative designs and technologies that provide substantially equivalent or greater access” for those with disabilities.
The case was discontinued last month after it was settled for an unknown amount. “Our ONLY choice, after being advised by several very competent lawyers, was to settle,” Manitoba and Hansen write on their Indiegogo page.
This isn’t the only headache the beloved watering hole has faced, as evidenced by the fundraiser’s complaint that the East Village is “now being commoditized at an alarming rate and manifesting itself in the form of tenants in expensive apartments levying noise complaints at 8pm.”When The Local East Village caught up with Hansen in 2012, she said the bar’s stage was removed because of such noise complaints. A year later, The Local documented a long-standing feud between Manitoba’s and an upstairs neighbor.
Despite that tension, the owners of the bar insist that “Manitoba’s, its proprietors and patrons, are the very fiber of the East Village,” and beg, “Please don’t let Manitoba’s meet the same fate as other business institutions that have recently been forced to close.”
At the time of this post, the bar has raised more than $9,300 of the $25,000 it hopes to net within 30 days. And it’s no wonder: one of the donation perks is an “autographed iconic photo of Handsome Dick Manitoba grabbing his girl’s butt in front of CBGB, circa ’77.”