Rebirth Of CBGB

CBGB is being revived with merch sales and plans to one day reopen a club.

The pair behind CBGB Holdings is James Blueweiss and Robert Williams. Blueweiss is a marketer who began advising the club a year before it closed in October 2006 and who convinced founder Hilly Kristal to sell the club in 2007. Williams helped open HMV stores around the world, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The duo paid $3.5 million for the brand earlier this year. CBGB Holdings owns all intellectual property, domestic and international trademarks, copyrights, video and audio libraries, ongoing apparel business, physical property and the Web site of the original New York venue.

For the grand opening of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC last week, CBGB Holdings donated a urinal as well as the “CBGB & OMFUG” awning and a phone booth from the New York club.

The company signed a deal in November with Bravado, a Universal Music Group company, to sell millions of CBGB T-shirts. The Vans Warped Tour music fest will feature an interactive CBGB exhibit next summer.

Blueweiss told the WSJ that the deal with Bravado is expected to boost overall figures. He said profits from T-shirt sales in Japan brings in $6 million alone, but Blueweiss declined to give total revenue.

There are plans for an overhaul of the CBGB’s Web site, which will include streaming music and videos, social networking components and a forum for fans to add their own memories and stories of the famed club. The site will also promote promising new bands, a nod to how much Kristal helped out the Ramones.

Down the line, CBGB Holdings hopes to reopen a club. Williams said a new venue wouldn’t open for at least 18 months but that discussions are ongoing with properties in New York and Las Vegas.

“Live music is what CBGB is all about, and ultimately it will be back there, but it has to be done the right way,” he told the paper.

In the meantime, a lawsuit was filed last year over the ownership of CBGB. The lawsuit names Kristal’s estate and CBGB Holdings.

Kristal, who named the club Country, Bluegrass, Blues in 1973 but soon added “OMFUG” or “Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers” after the venue became home to acts eager to usher in the punk genre, sold the club a few months before he died in August 2007.

The club was forced to close the year before because of a dispute over what the Bowery Residents’ Committee said was more than $75,000 owed in back rent.

Kristal’s former wife, Karen, 83, claims in the suit that she is actually the owner of CBGB because of an agreement made between the Kristals before the club even opened.

The suit says Hilly named his ex-wife as the owner of record in order to obtain a liquor license because of legal complications due to a bankruptcy of a previous business.

The Kristals were already divorced at the time.

“I started CBGB,” Karen told the New York Times. “I put up the money, spent my time in there. And then my daughter says that they get it all. And that’s a lie.”

The New York Times noted that the Kristals’ daughter, Lisa Kristal Burgman, 53, inherited the bulk of her father’s estate worth more than $3 million.

Karen, who spent time at the club manning the bar, cleaning up and checking IDs, received nothing in the will.

Karen also claims that Hilly and their daughter hid money from the sale of merchandise from her.

Lawyers for Hilly’s estate said Karen’s allegations were “specious….CBGB was, and is, synonymous with Hilly Kristal.”

Court papers say Karen signed over ownership of the club to Hilly in 2005 but she said she has no memory of signing the document. The papers were signed by Hilly but not by any lawyers or witnesses.