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“We’re trying to continue the idea of supporting live music, making a lot of noise and being a part of New York City. The festival is one way we can do it. Eventually the club will be another way we can do it.”
——new co-owner Tim Hayes
THE SECOND COMING OF CBGB
Iconic Rock Club’s Assets Bought by Group of Investors Who Intend to Reinvigorate the Brand
CBGB, the defunct East Village dive beloved by so many musicians and fans, is about to begin a second life, albeit in altered form. A group of investors that includes concert promoter Tim Hayes and former agent Joe D’Urso has bought the assets of the club from Lisa Kristal Burgman, daughter of late owner Hilly Kristal, and plans to establish an ambitious music festival this summer, with an eye toward reopening the club at a new downtown location, the N.Y. Times reports.

The new owners tell Times reporters James McKinley and Stephen Brown they hope that the festival will revive the wide-open artistic aesthetic associated with CBGB, which in its heyday served as an incubator for the likes of Television, Talking Heads, the Ramones, Blondie, Sonic Youth and Patti Smith.

“We’re never going to recreate that moment in time,” says Hayes. “We’re trying to continue the idea of supporting live music, making a lot of noise and being a part of New York City. The festival is one way we can do it. Eventually the club will be another way we can do it.”

The CBGB Festival is set for July 5-9 at clubs all over the city and also includes a slate of panels, a la the CMJ Music Marathon, with around 300 acts booked, according to the new owners. The lineup is split between old-timers (David Johansen, D Generation, Guided by Voices, the Cro-Mags) and current hipster faves (The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Cloud Nothings), though only a handful of acts are identified on the official site. Says Hayes, “We want to make room for some of the legends that came from CBGB, but the primary focus is to support new music.” It was Hayes’s commitment to original music that persuaded Burgman, who controlled the estate that owned the rights to the club, to sell it to him, she said. “It’s a relief to know that it’s not going to die,” she said. “It’s going to be reborn.”

Kristal shut down the club in 2006 after a long and bitter dispute over back rent with the landlord. He died a year later, leaving most of his estate to Burgman. Shortly before he died, Kristal had negotiated a deal to sell the club’s assets to two entrepreneurs, James Blueweiss and Robert Williams. They bought the rights from his estate in May 2008 , for $3.5 million but declared bankruptcy two years later. Under Burgman’s direction, the estate sued to reclaim the club’s assets. Complicating matters, Kristal’s former wife, Karen Kristal, also filed suit, disputing the sale, saying she had been the rightful owner of the business. By October 2010, both legal battles had been settled, and Burgman ended up in control of not only the club’s famous logo, but also its memorabilia and its grubby interior furnishings. Several would-be buyers approached her.

She started talking to Hayes about his interest in reviving the club in early 2011. Her main concern, she said, was to ensure that Hayes and his partners would carry on her father’s policy of supporting original, undiscovered musicians. “What was important was to make sure that whoever bought it understood what CBGB was about, and Tim did from the get-go,” Burgman said.

Burgman says she has no financial stake in the festival, nor in the future club, though she is continuing to advise the new owners. “It’s passing the baton,” she said. For continuity’s sake, Hayes has hired Louise Parnassa-Staley, the club’s booker from 1986 until its closing, to book the acts for the festival.

Eventually, Hayes and his partners intend to reopen the club in Lower Manhattan and are searching for an ideal building to buy. “We don’t want to be a tenant,” he said. “We don’t want to be a victim of what happened before.”

The new club, if and when it opens, will have most of the trappings of the shuttered club at its disposal: A theatrical company dismantled and itemized everything from the bar itself to set lists and put it all in storage in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

But Hayes and D’Urso say they don’t want to open a “museum installation” aimed at tourists. They hope to re-establish CBGB as a vibrant downtown club that will present original bands. “Rock is an art form that I love and respect, and I think has a purpose in the social fabric of our society,” says D’Urso. “And it’s been a little pushed aside. If we can help push it back in, we’d like to.”


 

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