CBGB Denied Lease Renewal

As nostalgic fans sporting safety pin earrings and black Ramones T-shirts rallied to save the New York club that launched punk rock, the founder of CBGB said he had no plans to clear out of the Manhattan venue despite the landlord’s refusal to renew the landmark’s lease.

”We intend to stay,” club owner Hilly Kristal said hours before the lease expired at midnight August 31st.

It was Kristal who launched the club in 1973, creating a space that eventually spawned bands like the Ramones, Blondie and the Talking Heads. The club eventually gained an international reputation as the birthplace of punk.

The Bowery Residents’ Committee, the building’s landlord, announced August 31st it intended to end its relationship with the 32-year-old club, calling for CBGB to ”vacate the premises both voluntarily and expeditiously,” according to a statement by BRC executive director Muzzy Rosenblatt.

But with acts scheduled at the venue throughout most of September, Kristal was not backing down.

”This is not a eulogy. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t come to an understanding,” said Kristal.

Rock stars, actors and supporters of the club promised to wage a battle to the end.

”We’re not going without a fight,” said rock star and actor Steven Van Zandt, who hosted a rally in Washington Square Park Wednesday aimed at putting public pressure on Rosenblatt.

”If the eviction proceedings start tomorrow, which I hope it doesn’t, we’ll fight it in the courts,” said an increasingly frustrated Van Zandt, who blasted Rosenblatt for the inability to reach a new agreement. The E Street Band guitarist, ”Sopranos” star and radio show host entered the negotiations about six weeks ago.

Also performing at the rally were Public Enemy and Blondie, who were joined by ”Sopranos” co-stars Tony Sirico and Joe Pantoliano, politicians and other CBGB supporters.

Some at the rally echoed 1970s fashion statements, sporting green hair and safety pin earrings. Among them was 45-year-old Rochelle Goldman, who was wearing a ”Save CBGB” T-shirt complemented by assorted CBGB wristbands dangling from both arms.

”People say it’s a museum, but I’m still going there,” she declared. ”I’m an old punk.”

But while Gavin Rossdale was leading his new band, Institute, through a rollicking version of ”Machinehead,” the decision on booting the club had already been made.

”It doesn’t look hopeful,” said Lucky Pierre, 26, a New York University student. ”But we’ll keep the fires burning until the last minute.”

Rosenblatt’s group holds a 45-year lease on the building, which houses 250 homeless people above the club. CBGB is its lone commercial tenant.

The rent feud dates back five years, when Rosenblatt’s committee went to court to collect more than $300,000 in back rent from the club.

CBGB won a legal decision earlier this month when a Manhattan civil court judge ruled that the club couldn’t be evicted for a bookkeeping mistake that left Kristal about $100,000 behind in his rent.

The current rent is $19,000 a month, although that figure was expected to at least double under any new lease. The club’s landlord-tenant woes are reminiscent of the fight over The Bottom Line, the vintage Greenwich Village club that closed in December 2003.

Not even the intervention of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who offered to mediate the dispute, could resolve the problem. Bloomberg said he hoped to help CBGB find a new location in the city.

Associated Press