CBGB’s owner Hilly Kristal, sitting at his usual perch Thursday inside the Bowery’s renowned nightclub, offered twin observations: He’s got no lease, and no intention of quietly surrendering his club.
“It’s a fight, a hard fight, and we’re going to keep fighting,” said the bearded 72-year-old patriarch of the club where the Ramones and Talking Heads found a home. “We think we have a chance of coming out on top.”
Kristal spoke just a few hours after the club’s lease with the Bowery Residents’ Committee expired at midnight Wednesday. Muzzy Rosenblatt, executive director of the nonprofit homeless services agency, decided against renewing the club’s lease after a contentious five-year battle over the monthly $19,000 rent. The group houses 250 homeless people above the club. CBGB is its lone commercial tenant.
Rosenblatt, who did not return a call for comment Thursday, had earlier issued a statement urging Kristal to “vacate the premises both voluntarily and expeditiously.”
But Kristal promised a court battle to keep the club running; shows already are scheduled for the rest of this month.
“I feel it’s very important that we stay in this fight,” said Kristal. “A lot of people want this place open.”
Mark Alonso, the lawyer who represented the Bottom Line in an ultimately losing battle to save the famed Greenwich Village club in a landlord-tenant dispute, said Kristal’s legal fight would only delay the inevitable.
“There are lawyers in New York who can buy you nine months,” Alonso said. “But you can’t win without a lease. There is no winning, just stalling.”
Kristal founded the club in December 1973, creating a space that gained an international reputation as the birthplace of punk.
A compromise, at this point, is about as likely as a Ramones reunion. The two sides haven’t spoken in months, and efforts by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office to mediate the situation were unsuccessful.
Word that the lease had run out on the punk mecca came during a star-studded “CBGB’s Forever” rally Wednesday.
Blondie, Public Enemy and Gavin Rossdale performed, while Little Steven Van Zandt — CBGB’s biggest booster — hosted the event.