Birchmere Project Called Off

The honeymoon is over between the owners of the 500-capacity Birchmere club in Alexandra, Va., and the city of Silver Spring, Md. – where the owners wanted to build a sister venue.

Why the negotiations fell apart remains a mystery, but the Washington Post said Silver Spring might still get a venue, courtesy of Live Nation. Sources told the paper that Silver Spring and LN are negotiating a Fillmore-brand venue that would be three times the size of the proposed 700-capacity club.

The Birchmere released a detailed statement July 25th that the club owners are no longer pursuing plans to build a second Birchmere. The company claims officials in the Montgomery County government breached a longstanding agreement to build the venue on the site of a former J.C. Penney’s store.

"To date, the Birchmere has not been given a plausible reason for the breach," the statement reads. "Any assertion by the county or any other entity that the parties were unable to reach agreement on the essential business terms is patently and demonstrably false."

Now the Birchmere says it’s turned its sights on the Washington, D.C., marketplace for expansion opportunities.

Live Nation spokesman John Vlautin would not comment to Pollstar about the Post story but acknowledged that Live Nation is looking into the D.C. market for expansion of the House of Blues and Fillmore brands.

The Birchmere logo was on site when things fell apart, according to the company, but the "county and/or the landowner is ready to announce – or perhaps already has – a replacement for the Birchmere. The replacement is allegedly a stand-up nightclub concept, more traditionally associated with drink rather than food service."

Pradeep Ganguly, Montgomery’s economic development director, reportedly sent a letter to the Birchmere that it was ending negotiations.

"We told them we wanted to put our further discussions on hold and look at some alternative operators for the Silver Spring site" Montgomery County spokesman Patrick Lacefield told the Post. "We are looking for a larger economic impact and we weren’t exactly where we wanted to be in negotiations with Birchmere."

County and state officials committed taxpayer money to bring The Birchmere to downtown Silver Spring – with the county and state to pitch in about $4 million each over two years to build the venue, according to the Washington Post.

"Residents of Silver Spring have been working toward building a vibrant cultural downtown environment," Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan said at the time in a council report. "This second Birchmere location would be one of the final steps to making that vision a reality."

Project developer Lee Development Group, that owns the site, reportedly donated 9,000 square feet of land to the project, according to the Post. Area residents were in support, with 1,200 signing a petition for the Birchmere project.