So Long, CBGB

For 33 years, New York City’s CBGB has served as a beacon for hungry rock acts and fans of underground music. That was expected to end October 15th when the legendary club planned to close its doors, never to return – at least not in the Big Apple.

Venue owner Hilly Kristal, who lost his lease last year, plans to relocate to downtown Las Vegas. He said he plans to take the bars, doors, toilets and urinals along to recreate the club’s atmosphere.

“We’re going to take it all,” he recently told Pollstar, adding that he was in discussions with several developers and brokers.

How much Las Vegas will appreciate the club’s famously bad toilets and urinals remains to be seen, but even Glitter Gulch can’t deny the historical value of those punk rock artifacts.

CBGB veterans Bad Brains, The Dictators, and Blondie’s Deborah Harry and Chris Stein were among the acts scheduled to perform during the club’s final week. Following an October 15th show featuring Patti Smith, Kristal will begin stripping the club down to its bare walls.

CBGB & OMFUG, which stands for Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers, opened in 1973 after Kristal was forced to close his West Village club, Hilly’s.

He intended to showcase the music mentioned in the club’s name. However, those genres never took hold and, meanwhile, unsigned NYC bands were scoping out places to play in a city where live music clubs were not plentiful. The formula arguably led to the birth of punk rock when four guys in old blue jeans sharing the same last name plugged into the P.A.

CBGB had only one requirement for an act – it had to play all original songs. That requirement was met in spades when bands like Television, The Patti Smith Group, Blondie, Talking Heads, and The Ramones took to the club’s cramped stage. Scores followed, and the venue secured its place in music history.

Throughout the ’80s, CBGB remained a prime destination for bands on tour, but its main attraction was as a showcase for hardcore bands like Agnostic Front, Bad Brains, and Black Flag. Kristal stopped booking hardcore acts when violence inside and outside the club became a problem, but in recent years CBGB has hosted acts across the musical spectrum.

The beginning of the end for CBGB came last year when a dispute between Kristal and the Bowery Resident’s Committee resulted in a high-profile legal battle.

After Kristal’s lease expired, the two parties reached an agreement that allowed the club to remain open until October 2006 as long as Kristal dropped his lawsuits and attempts to obtain historic landmark status for the club.