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It may be the last dance for New York real estate mogul Robert Gans. The owner of 11 properties around the city, including Hell’s Kitchen’s Metropolitan Lumber & Hardware and strip joint the Executive Club, has put a portfolio of his real-estate holding companies into bankruptcy amid a spider’s web of contentious lawsuits. 

Robert Gans placed a group of Hell’s Kitchen properties on 11th Avenue between W45/46th Street into bankruptcy to pause litigation with lenders. Photo composite: Robert’s Steakhouse & BING.

Faced with foreclosure by lender Mack Real Estate Group, Gans filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after Mack alleged he defaulted on a $130 million loan and had missed as much as $6 million in payments last October.

The bankruptcy filing was slotted in between an elaborate matrix of ongoing lawsuits by additional lenders Extell Development and Eli Tabak’s Bluestone Group (who bought Gans’s debt from Mack in April) and a countersuit by Gans alleging that the two lenders had engaged in a “conspiracy” to sell his properties out from under him by way of strategic equity and foreclosure purchases. 

The Executive Club is one of the real estate holdings put into Chapter 11 bankruptcy by Robert Gans. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Born in Brooklyn, Gans began his career in the lumber business, opening five locations of Metropolitan Lumber & Hardware before delving into the real estate and hospitality industries. In addition to owning the Scores strip club in Chelsea (the inspiration for legendary New York Magazine article-turned major motion picture Hustlers), Gans’s West Side properties include a 57,700-square foot assemblage on 11th Avenue between W45th and W46th Street that includes Metropolitan Lumber and Hardware and the 10,000-square foot Executive Club (previously known as the Penthouse Executive Club), a two-story exotic dance emporium featuring multiple stages, a full-service steakhouse, plus a hidden dining room for “guests seeking discretion.” 

While the Executive Club may not have the same patina of Hollywood notoriety as Scores, the nightclub has had its share of press over the years. In a 2007 New York Times restaurant review entitled “Where Only the Salad is Properly Dressed”, critic Frank Bruni described “pleasure palace” steakhouse Robert’s as having  “some of the very best steaks in New York City” and that “no matter what your appetite for the saucy spectacle accessorizing these steaks, you’ll be turned on by the quality of the plated meat.” Gans agreed, commenting at the opening of a Robert’s in Las Vegas: “I think my taste is pretty good in whatever venture it is.”

Metropolitan Lumber & Hardware yard on 11th Avenue. Photo: Phil O’Brien

The future ownership of the Executive Club, among Gans’s other properties, is one of several dizzying deals around Midtown’s ever-revolving real estate door. Over on 8th Avenue, the crossroads between Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen proper, the remnants of “Old Midtown” and the new push of Hudson Yards-style retail developments have come to a head as investors buy and transform some of the thoroughfare’s most notorious buildings. One notable example is 691 8th Avenue, once known as the Playpen porn multiplex, which was purchased by property giants Tishman Realty for $117 million in 2007 and recast as a glossy 450,000-square foot high-rise housing the Intercontinental Times Square Hotel and ground-level Shake Shack (per Crain’s). 

Could the Executive Club become the next Midtown Equinox location? Will Metropolitan Lumber & Hardware morph into a luxury skyscraper-slash-Sweetgreen? Gans’s bankruptcy filings effectively put his lender’s lawsuits on hold, so there could still be steaks and strip routines sizzling on 11th Avenue.

The Penthouse Executive Club billboard in 2014 — featuring Robert’s Steakhouse Photo: Phil O’Brien

W42ST reached out to Gans through a representative at Metropolitan Lumber and attorneys who have previously represented him for comment and will update if we hear back.

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1 Comment

  1. We know EXACTLY what is going to be built here — more residential high rises. To the folks that will say, “we want a Trader Joe’s!” or “we want a Fairway!” buckle up for a long wait because there’s no way it’s going to be built there. Mark my words…

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