Deadline looms, future uncertain for CBGB's

Wednesday, August 31st 2005, 1:29 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ The lease at CBGB's, the Bowery's venerable punk club, expires at midnight Wednesday. With the clock running down on the musical landmark, there's only one thing certain about its future: supporters of the club won't surrender without a fight.

A Washington Square Park rally, hosted by Little Steven Van Zandt, aims to put public pressure on CBGB's landlord, the Bowery Residents' Committee, to sign a new deal. But the two sides haven't spoken in weeks, and no last-minute talks were scheduled before or after the rally.

Blondie and other bands will perform in the park, along with politicians and other CBGB supporters.

An increasingly frustrated Van Zandt blasted BRC executive Muzzy 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.

``This is starting to get ugly now,'' said Van Zandt. ``We're trying to take the high road. But it's quite obvious now that Muzzy's not rational, not reasonable. If he has the same compassion for the homeless as he does for the city of New York, I've got to be concerned.''

Rosenblatt declined to comment specifically on what would happen once the lease runs out. ``I'll do what is in the best interest of the BRC and the people it serves to make sure the property is used responsible,'' he said.

Rosenblatt's group _ an agency that aids the homeless _ holds a 45-year lease on the building and houses 250 homeless people above the club. CBGB's is their lone commercial tenant; their rent feud dates back five years, when the committee went to court to collect more than $300,000 in back rent from the club.

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 were reminiscent of the fight over The Bottom Line, the vintage Greenwich Village club that closed in December 2003.

CBGB's 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 owner Hilly Kristal about $100,000 behind in his rent.

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

On Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city would try to help CBGB's relocate if a new lease agreement doesn't happen. The mayor held up a black T-shirt with a simple message: ``SAVE CBGB.''

``CBGB's is a great New York institution,'' the mayor said. ``It's more than, you know, another club. ... If they owner of the building they are in cannot be convinced to come to an agreement with them, then we'll help them do something else.''