CBGB Landlord Declines Lease Renewal Despite NYC Rally
By: Alyssa Rashbaum
For the last month, musicians have rallied non-stop to keep legendary rock club CBGB open. Despite their best efforts, the venue’s landlord announced Wednesday that he will not renew the club’s lease.
During a day-long rally in New York City’ Washington Square Park on August 31 — the last day of the venue’s current lease — Bowery Resident’s Committee (BRC) executive director Muzzy Rosenblatt released a statement explaining that the BRC “believes it is in the best interest of our clients — the homeless and neediest New Yorkers — to sever this relationship.” At the rally, which featured performances by acts including Gavin Rossdale’s new band, Institute, Blondie, and Public Enemy, staunch CBGB supporter and Sopranos actor Little Steven Van Zandt took the stage to read Rosenblatt’s statement to the hundreds gathered.
“Today, CBGB’s lease expires and is not being renewed,” Rosenblatt wrote. The “BRC has already been forced to divert precious funds and resource toward a lengthy rent dispute with the club…. We hope that CBGB will vacate the premises both voluntarily and expeditiously and avoid costly eviction proceedings that will further hinder our 35-year mission to help the homeless.”
Anyone who has been following the massive campaign in support of the venue, however, knows there’s no way CBGB is closing down without a fight, a point which Little Steven drove home. “No matter what Muzzy says, CBGB does not become less important,” he said. “There will be bands playing there tonight, there will be bands playing there every night until someone drags us out. We don’t care what Muzzy says!”
Van Zandt, joined by owner Hilly Kristal, who started CBGB in 1973, also spoke of the 30,000-signatures-strong petition he gave to Mayor Bloomberg, motivating the Mayor to finally speak out in favor of the club.
Following the dismal reading of Rosenblatt’s decision, Bouncing Souls took to the stage and propelled themselves through an electric set — including a collaboration with Bad Brains’ H.R. on his band’s “Pay to Cum” — that at least helped the crowd momentarily forget that their efforts would go unheard by the BRC.
The Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz made an appearance on stage to introduce Blondie, one of the club’s biggest supporters during its final days. Harry, wearing what appeared to be a more understated outfit than the black-pants-and-boustier combo she sported at the fundraising kick-off on August 1, sauntered to the mic in a muted yellow shirt, black visor, and detachable platinum ponytail. In the midst of a set full of classics like “One Way or Another,” Harry dropped her pants to reveal a pair of red, white, and blue Ramones boxers.
Verbose city councilman and rabid CBGB supporter Alan Gerson attempted to follow Blondie’s stripping act with a Howard Dean-esque tirade about his plans to keep working on behalf of the venue. “I plan to keep representing CBGB as part of my district,” he said. “It is no more acceptable for New York to lose CBGB than it would be to lose Radio City Music Hall.” And to Rosenblatt (not present), Gerson added: “Hey, ho, we’re not gonna go!”
Speaking of fighting the powers that be, Public Enemy stormed the stage to close the show, bringing up Little Steven to join Chuck D., Flavor Flav and the rest of the group, during a strangely poignant rendition of “Fight the Power.”
Unfortunately, despite CBGB’s best efforts to do just that, the club will be eventually be forced to shut its doors, though an exact date of eviction has not been announced. Acts have been scheduled at CBGB through September and no cancellations have been made.