For any hardcore fan of the 1996 musical Rent, Manhattan’s old Moondance Diner is a sort of holy site. Composer/lyricist Jonathan Larson worked there while penning his Tony and Pulitzer-winning opus; Larson also immortalized the restaurant in a song from his lesser-known musical Tick, Tick… Boom! And even those who aren’t familiar with Rent have probably seen the Moondance onscreen: Monica worked as a cook there during a few seasons of Friends. The Sex and the City gals used to stop by the diner for weekend brunch. Their table may have been waited on by Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson, who also worked at the Moondance in 2002’s Spider-Man.
Alas, pop culture notoriety isn’t enough to keep a restaurant in business. In 2007, the institution closed — but was saved from demolition by a group of rabble-rousing preservationists and neighborhood residents. (Just like the people on the subway in Spider-Man 2!) Later that year, the restaurant was donated to the American Diner Museum. The museum subsequently sold it to Cheryl and Vince Pierce, who transported the Moondance — walls, moon sign and all — to their hometown of LaBarge, Wyoming.
It took two years for the Pierces to remodel the diner and outfit it with new fixtures and appliances. Finally, the couple reopened the Moondance in 2009… only to struggle along for three years, relying on minimal tourist traffic and the town’s 400 permanent residents to stay afloat. Finally, the Pierces have made a difficult decision: They’ve closed the diner, and are trying to pay off their debt by selling it.
“I’ve put so much into it over the last five years, and I’m kind of tapped,” Cheryl Pierce told the AP. “I hate to admit that, but I really am. I’m tapped financially, emotionally and physically.”
The Moondance’s saga is a sad one — but it doesn’t have to have a sad ending. Scrounge up $290,000, and you could own a little bit of pop culture history. Side note: Can anyone lend me $290,000?