CBGB Help Misguided

Friday, September 02, 2005

CBGB Landlord Declines Lease Renewal Despite NYC Rally

I have to confess to being more than a bit confused at the misguided efforts of the musicians who have been rallying to save legendary punk club, CBGB. The bottom line of the dispute with the landlord is that the owners of the club have failed to pay $300,000 in rent over the years, the landlord is fed up with getting screwed out of the rent, and they've had enough. I have yet to hear a single musician criticize the owners of CBGB for failing to pay the rent.

If you or I failed to pay our rents, how long would our landlord tolerate it? I give it 60 days until the legal eviction proceedings were complete. Yet evidently the landlord has let it go on for several years out of consideration for the club's historic status. How much are they supposed to take? If it were my building, you bet that I'd take action to collect that money. $300,000 is no chump change. This isn't a dispute over not paying the rent until a leaky pipe is fixed. This is $300,000 that the owners of the club have systematically and purposefully withheld because they figured that CBGB's landmark status would prevent the landlord from ever taking action against them.

That's absolutely ridiculous. The owners of CBGB's should be subjected to every manner of socially acceptable abuse for their greed and slick maneuvering to get out of paying bills that they legally incurred. I'd be willing to bet that if anyone owed those musicians who are gathering to criticize the landlord that kind of money, they'd have taken action against them - one way or the other - to get that money back. I would have. And so would you.

Someone needs to be asking where the money to pay the rent has gone. There's no doubt that the owners aren't living on the streets, so they've taken the money and done something with it. Whether it be to support extravagant lifestyles or just poorly managed the legendary club, before I went to support the owners I'd be asking some serious questions about whether those people deserve to continue as stewards of the club.

That brings me to the next point: why don't these musicians donate money themselves? Any one of the acts who have gathered at the club could afford to pay the back rent. When you're worth millions, $300,000 isn't that big of a chunk of change - especially if it were divided up by the number of acts who are protesting the club's closure. The landlord made it clear a long time ago that they would be willing to discuss renewing the lease once the back rent was paid: why don't they just pay it? Instead of making a token appearance and talking down the landlord, why not actually address the real problem which is the club owners' failure to pay the rent. Acts like Blondie, The Ramones, etc. who owe their entire fortunes to the start they got at that club are willing to talk the talk, but not walk the walk.

This is yet another case of celebrities wanting people to do as they say, not do as they do. The owners of CBGB want a free ride because an accident of history blessed their club with fame. No one gets a free ride in this life, and it's just too bad that the landlord is stuck looking like the bad guy, it's not fair to them. The only ones to blame are the irresponsible owners of the club who are finally reaping the consequences of not paying their bills...


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