CBGB Closes – So What?

cbgb_ramones.jpgThere 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.


  1. Anne Bretts said:

    Who is we? Do you want a city owned bar? A subsidy for the Eagles Club to remodel and hire bands?
    Old folks like us opening a night club for kids doesn’t work. CBGB grew organically out of the demand from the young people taking over the area.
    Grezzo Gallery is doing a great job of proving a social scene for young people. As the numbers grow and demand grows a smart bar owner will move in to cater to it.

    March 24, 2007
  2. kiffi summa said:

    Who is we? Well, I think Ross was speaking in the communal, not city gov’t sense…… But there has been interest in the sort of music venue/bar Ross describes. A year or so ago, a company that operates several bizs of that type came to NF looking for a location. Alas, couldn’t find one that was the right mix for them; but they do have successful ones in Winona, Mankato, etc, if I’m remembering correctly.
    Downtowners are always bemoaning that the DT needs more “volume”, and thirty-somethings are always saying there’s not enough for them to do in NF, so sounds like a good mix to me…personally, although I’m a twice-thirty-something, Id like it too. We have a ton of good musicians around; is there another Bob Dylan lurking out there, just looking for an exposure? “Sonicate” : where are you?
    Alas again, with the new tax bills coming in with a 20% raise (after the assessor supposedly caught everyone’s market value up to current with last year’s 50-100% jump) how will anything be affordable for a beginning entrepreneur? The costs of the DT buildings is just all out of synch with what local biz people can pay for rent. Same old problem just getting worse…
    Ross: find an ANGEL that can fund a great music venue; something that would draw from the whole SE quadrant of the state??? Just one more task for an already hardworking guy!

    March 26, 2007

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