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New York Punk Venue Faces Closure Due to Unpaid Rent
03/07/05 2:30pm

NEW YORK - New York's renowned rock club CBGB which has helped launch everybody from the Ramones to Blondie, faces closure if it does not resolve a dispute over unpaid rent with the homeless charity that owns the building.

Club owner Hilly Kristal said the dispute dated from 2001, when the landlord presented a $300,000 bill for unpaid rent.

Though most of that has now been repaid, the club was handed another bill earlier this year for $76,000, which CBGB has not paid. "The real thing is they don't want me back," Kristal said, adding that there had been a series of disagreements over renovations and building certificates in recent years. The club's lease comes to an end in August and talks on renewal are stalled.

CBGB, which stands for "country, bluegrass and blues" even though it is most famous for punk music, rents its downtown space from the Bowery Residents' Committee -- a non-profit organization that runs a homeless shelter above the premises.

"I am not going to subsidize CBGB at the expense of homeless people," said Muzzy Rosenblatt, executive director for the organization. MTV's Web site quoted him as saying CBGB had not met its obligations on safety.

The Committee wants to double the rent and negotiations over a new lease have ground to a halt amid legal wrangling that will result in a court hearing later this month.

Kristal founded the club in 1973, converting what had been a Hell's Angels hangout into one of the most famous venues for live music in the city, said he would fight closure of what he called a New York City institution.

"We've established something here. ... This is a kind of symbol of helping young musicians and new artists," he said, recalling early gigs such as Pearl Jam.

"I think we do a nice thing for a lot of people; maybe it's not quite as wonderful as helping the homeless but it has its benefits," Kristal said.

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