NEW YORK — Punk acts young, old and reunited have pledged their support for the legendary New York club CBGB, which is fighting to renew a soon-to-expire lease and may be forced to close shop entirely.
Acts including the Misfits, Thursday, Against Me, Liars, Dead Boys, Gorilla Biscuits and the Vandals will perform at a series of benefit concerts at the club in the coming weeks to raise money.
The Save CBGB fund is earmarked for the club’s legal fees as it lobbies its landlord, the Bowery Residents Committee (BRC), a not-for-profit organization that provides services and shelter to homeless and disabled New Yorkers.
Additional artists set to appear include Living Colour, Flipper, Kid Dynamite, Bush Tetras, Chevelle, the Exit and World Inferno Friendship Society.
Beyond the shows, acts including the Bangles, Elvis Costello and Sting have donated memorabilia for an auction, and the E Street Band’s Steven Van Zandt has made efforts to negotiate with the BRC. Former Talking Heads vocalist David Byrne has also offered to assist in mediation.
"CBGBs supports the BRC’s fight to help the homeless — we just want our lease renewed to keep this historic venue in its original place," says CBGB owner Hilly Kristal.
The conflict stems from a series of rent hikes. According to CBGB spokesperson Scott Goodstein, on several occasions the BRC raised the rent on CBGB’s home at 313 Bowery without properly informing the club, later bringing the issue to court in order to collect interest. The most recent dispute involves about $80,000 in back rent the BRC claims it is owed.
In May, the committee cut off negotiations with Kristal to renew the lease on his space, which will terminate on Aug. 31, citing fire-safety violations, among other problems. According to Goodstein, those charges are merely spin as the landlord looks to double its income from the property. If there were real safety hazards, "the city wouldn’t allow us to be open," he adds. A BRC spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Goodstein says the possibility of moving the club has been ruled out.
"You can’t move the stage and the club that so many bands played on and were launched from," he offers. "I mean, CBs is the Bowery. The only place that that type of New York energy could take place and be expressed in is the Bowery."