How ridiculous is this? CBGB's, birthplace of The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Television and upteen other influential bands and artists from the past 30 years, is facing extinction thanks to some jerk-off landlords. How can that be? How can one of the most recognized, historic clubs in the world be in this predicament?
According to the Web site savecbgbs.org, here's how the situation breaks down:
"CBGB's does not own their space. The building is owned by SF Associates and rented to the Bowery Resident's Committee (BRC). The BRC rents the entire building for aprox. $16,000 a month and charges CBGB's aprox $19,000 a month for their space (about half the building). The BRC is no small non-for-profit organization, they are a $25 million dollar a year group that receives over $15 million dollars from the city and state. The BRC also claims that CBGB's has not paid their full rent for three years. In fact, the BRC has not properly billed CBGB's for those years AND has not provided heat. The BRC is currently not negotiating with CBGB's for a new lease which expires August 31, 2005. They also have both properties listed and available on the Real Estate MLS for anyone else who wishes to rent 313 and 315 Bowery."
And according to the BRC site, the BRC "is a voluntary, non-profit organization addressing the needs of persons with limited resources. Our clients are homeless, chemically dependent, pychiatrically disabled, aged, and persons with HIV/AIDS in metropolitan New York City. The agency provides a comprehensive array of services including housing, meals, detoxification, mental health and addiction services, health care, vocational rehabilitation, AIDS services, community education, and advocacy. By providing these services, BRC offers its clients the means to function in society, and seeks to improve the quality of life in the community."
Admirable, indeed. But what of the claim that the BRC isn't, in fact, not-for-profit? And how about the claims by the owner of CBGB's, Hilly Kristal, that the BRC has been making life difficult for him and the club, refusing to give the club heat and overblowing the back-rent numbers? There's nothing on the BRC site to shed light on their stand at all.
There has been, however, a press release from the BRC in which Muzzy Rosenblatt, Executive Director, stated the BRC "believes it is in the best interest of our clients -- the homeless and the neediest New Yorkers -- to sever this relationship." How? How is it beneficial to anyone to kill off one of the biggest small clubs in the world? You're taking culture, history, an established gathering place, and the people who enjoy -- and have enjoyed -- CBGB's and saying, "To hell with all that." Surely there must be some vacant/dilapidated property in the Bowery to convert into a homeless shelter.
Boy, what an awful situation. And it's only made worse by the wholly ridiculous lack of comment from the people trying to shoo away something that people -- Mayor Bloomberg included -- wants to keep around. OK, the mayor doesn't exactly want CBGB's around, but he has said he would do his best to relocate the club to another location in the city.
Gee, that's real nice, but will you be airlifting the building to that new location, ensuring the ambiance of the stickered-postered walls stays intact? Of course not, because the BRC wants the building for their purposes. Moving CBGB's to a new place is missing the point -- yes the club is important, but so is the structure.
This is something that all music fans -- read: everyone with a pulse -- should get involved in. Sure, we don't all live in New York but we've all been touched by the music of -- or music influenced by -- Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Blondie -- the list goes on and on.
The Save CBGB's site is quite educational, and you can reach it by following the link on the left side of this blog. Sign the petition on the site. If you're so inclined, write/call Mayor Bloomberg. But whatever it is, if you love, enjoy, like, are interested in, or otherwise listen to music, get involved now, before one of the last real, true meccas of music history is gone forever.