There has been much buzz about the closing of a nightclub in New York City known as CBGB. Allegedly hip news reporting outlets such as the Village Voice, Spin and Slate have marked it as the end of an era. What, you might ask, is the big flippin’ deal?
In one sense, nothing. The reality of club economics is that they come, if they’re hip, they last a while, something else becomes hipper, and then they go. Considering the fact that CBGB opened in 1973, it had a heckuva run.
In another sense, it sure had a significant impact on local, regional and national economic development. The club symbolized that once again, artists had led to the rebirth of a physical community by their creation of a cultural community, generating millions of dollars of business, thousands of jobs and dramatically increasing the value of real estate.
In the late sixties and early seventies, artists had moved up Manhattan into an area that was filled with underused commercial and industrial spaces. Always hungry for a good deal on studio space, they came by the hundreds, year after year, turning vacant warehouses into studios and lofts. The galleries and cafes soon followed and what had been a no-man’s land became a thriving neighborhood.
CBGB was founded in the Bowery. The name stands for Country Blue Grass Blues and that was the original concept. However, as visual artists were experimenting with new forms, so were the aural artists. CBGB became that place that bands could try out their new music.
Out of this creative laboratory came Patti Smith, the Ramones, Debbie Harry, the Heartbreakers and the Talking Heads…among others. For the better part of a decade, the artists performing at this admittedly seedy bar made it the center of the music universe. The also sold alot of records and were one of the few bright lights in our international balance of payments equation.
So, the big deal is that same drum I’ve been beating for a couple of years now on the NDDC blog, the arts stimulate economic development. If we want to encourage entrepreneurial behavior by twenty-somethings, let’s open a night club.