So Long, CBGBs, Part 43: Las Vegas Nights

When last we caught up with CBGBs, Patti Smith was closing the party down in a fine fettle. The other day, Sydney Beveridge met up with CBGB’s proprietor and pals to ask: No really, what’s next for the old punksters?

After the eviction of CBGBs, Hilly Kristal packed up the awning and innards. They are currently sitting in a Connecticut storage facility. A few items are on eBay, and the rest is indeed, as suggested, off to Nevada.

“CBGBs is not ending. It’s just moving,” Mr. Kristal said. “Unfortunately, I wish we could stay in New York but we’re probably going to go to Las Vegas because the mayor and the mayor’s office want us there and this mayor doesn’t care, so it makes a difference.”

Mr. Kristal had actually had a meeting with the City of New York, and visited a potential venue—a former chicken slaughterhouse, unreconstructed—but the move would have required $5 million up front.

This was at a CMJ panel, at Alice Tully Hall. There was Chris Stein, co-founder and guitarist of Blondie. “Las Vegas is probably one of the shittiest places in the world and in 1975 New York was probably one of the shittiest places in the world too, so in that respect, maybe it’s a good thing,” he said.

With the gentrification of the Lower East Side in full effect—Whole Foods in the Bowery— Mr. Stein thinks it’s all over. “I saw Patti Smith quoted as saying ‘Well, the young people are going to find their own shithole to play in,’ and that’s a nice concept, but I think it’s a fantasy—because if you have to spend $2,000 a month for rent, how much time can you devote to your band and/or art?”

Darryl Jenifer, bassist of the Bad Brains,

Will this venue be able to relocate successfully? There was Darryl Jenifer, bassist of the Bad Brains. “The spirit of CBGBs—it’s living it’s real,” he said. “It could go anywhere—Japan, anywhere. This talk about New York…CBs has founded itself already in entertainment and bringing people to music. That’s why I still can’t understand why the club is closing.”

“I’ve always envisioned New York City as Escape from New York in reverse,” Mr. Sttein said, “where you have to show your papers to get in. They’re going to build a big fucking wall around the place and you’re going to have to show you have a bank account to get inside.”

Despite all this Las Vegas talk, Mr. Kristal still says he’d like to return CBGBs to New York within a few years. Until then, the shirts and book are still for sale, and the MySpace page is picking up hits as Nevada prepares for the relocation.
—Sydney Beveridge