Will punk-rock bar be on the rocks after ‘assault’?

Richard Manitoba a.k.a. Handsome Dick Manitoba. Courtesy Richard Manitoba

BY TINA BENITEZ-EVES | It’s one of the last, true punk bars in the East Village, but the fate of Manitoba’s might be in question following an alleged domestic assault by owner Richard Manitoba (“Handsome Dick”) against his partner, Zoe Hansen, who has also managed and bartended the venue for many years.

On the morning of Fri., Feb. 2, Manitoba, 64, was arrested and later arraigned on three counts of third-degree assault and one count each of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation and second-degree harassment. In the police report, Hansen, 51, claimed that Manitoba bit her, grabbed her neck and applied pressure.

Manitoba told The Villager, “We are still open,” when asked about the bar but did not elaborate on the situation much more than that.

“My friends know who I am… . If you believe 100 percent of everything you read, you’re a fool,” he said. The Yankees fan also added, “Baseball is right around the corner, and life is good.”

The Bronx-born punk rocker is due in Criminal Court on March 26. Hansen initially moved out of the couple’s E. Sixth St. apartment, which they share with their 15-year-old son, Jake, but is now back with her son in the East Village apartment, while Manitoba is reportedly staying at a hotel in Brooklyn.

The Feb. 2 fight, which led to the alleged assault, reportedly started over Hansen’s boyfriend, according to one of Hansen’s friends, who asked to remain unnamed.

“He knew she had a boyfriend and considered the relationship [with Manitoba] over, but couldn’t accept it and was constantly snooping in her phone and computer,” her friend told The Villager. “My guess is that he found something sexual in her photos, showed it to his son in the middle of freaking out and…is now calling it porn to make himself look better.”

The Villager reached out to Hansen for comment, but her friend said she is too shaken up and can’t talk right now.

To complicate matters, on Sun., Feb. 11, Hansen allegedly smashed a plate-glass window of the bar, reportedly demanding money, according to Manitoba’s lawyer Frank Rothman in a Page Six report. However, her friend said Hansen only argued with someone at the bar and did not break a window.

Manitoba initially apologized for what happened on Facebook following the incident, but quickly pulled the post down, according to sources. But he has returned to social media to discuss the situation, and the impact on the couple’s son.

“We have two different belief systems of what it takes to be in a relationship,” Manitoba said on Facebook on Feb. 13. “One is you stay true, and you’re in the family, and you take care of your son with all your heart. The other is I do what I want when I want even if I love you.”

Zoe Hansen with John Holmstrom of PUNK magazine in Manitoba’s bar four years ago. Holmstrom’s coffee-table book on the best of PUNK had just been published. Hansen was tending bar and came over to say hi. Photo by Lincoln Anderson

A local East Village source, who knows the couple and requested anonymity, told The Villager that he is not surprised by the incident.

“Anyone who knows Manitoba fairly well isn’t surprised by this,” he said.

He added he believes their son is still currently living with Manitoba.

“When you combine his overall psychological instability with his massive ego, anything’s possible,” the source reflected. “The only redeeming thing that I see in him is that he appears to be a very loving and devoted dad, and Zoe is an amazing mom from what I’ve seen and heard.”

He added that although Manitoba and Hansen have lived together during their 16-year relationship, they have not been a couple for the past several years, yet remained together to raise their son. He also said that he has never heard of Manitoba putting his hands on Hansen before this alleged incident.

“I hope for his sake that he’s getting some therapy, because aside from this I’ve heard that local musicians will not play with him anymore because of his ego, and that his grip on reality is slipping away,” the source added. “I mean a human biting another human, and it’s his baby mama to boot. That’s some dark, primal s— right there.”

As for Manitoba’s, it has already been on shaky ground during the past few years. In 2015, Manitoba questioned how much longer he would keep the bar running. Opened in 1999, Manitoba’s, at 99 Avenue B, near E. Seventh St., is a punk-rock archive, laden with memorabilia and a photograph gallery of punk’s past.

“I don’t love the bar business,” Manitoba told The Villager in 2015. “I love having that bar. I love having that history. I love having that clubhouse.”

Earlier that year, the bar also came close to shutting its doors after being hit with having to pay a settlement of $25,000 after Luigi Girotto sued Manitoba’s and 27 other nearby businesses for failing to meet wheelchair-accessibility requirements under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Time will tell how this all plays out between Manitoba and Hansen. Hansen, who is a writer, gave up bartending at Manitoba’s several years back and has recently been joining No Wave poet, singer and writer Lydia Lunch for spoken-word events during the past year. Meanwhile, Manitoba had the “Handsome Dick Manitoba” show as part of “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” show on Sirius XM, but has been off the air as of late last month.

“Zoe is no saint, and she is not loved by hardcore Manitoba fans, but Richard fights dirty and she has to be careful now, especially as they were never legally married, so she has very few rights,” her friend told The Villager. “In the end, there is a really great kid stuck in the middle. Honestly, I was hoping that this was a bottom for Richard, but it seems like he continues to lead with his ego rather than any kind of insight. It’s sad.”

On Facebook, Manitoba stated that his son will be fine through this all.

“That’s the mother of my child, [and] he should respect her and love her,” he wrote. “I don’t believe in unconditional love among adults, I believe children must have unconditional love… .” He added, “Jake will be fine. I will see to that, that is my main concern —my other concerns I will take care of one at a time as I need to.”

As for the future of Manitoba’s bar, it certainly isn’t being helped by his domestic-violence charges.

“His bar has been struggling for years now, and this incident will probably be the final nail,” the East Village source said. “There is never a correct time to physically abuse a woman, especially now.”

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