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19 April 2008


Seth Gordon

I dunno... I don't have any problem with Varvatos moving in. It wasn't HIS fault CBs closed, after all.

Besides, CBs had been coasting on reputation for... what, 20 years? Longer? From the mid-80s, Hilly was more interested in licensing fees for the name / logo than actually promoting music.

As far as I was concerned, CBs was dead by '89 at the latest. Hell, there were probably folks who thought it was dead in the 70s when it stopped booking "Country, Bluegrass, and Blues" and went punk.

If you want to be offended by those trampling on the grave of CBs, I find Hilly himself to be the worst offender. Really, what's worse - a John Varvatos store on the old site, or Hilly scoping out sites for "CBGB - Las Vegas" before he died? Seriously, it was one step away from being the next Hard Rock Cafe.

Mind you, I didn't hold any of that against him - he's a businessman. You think CBs would have been the Vatican of Punk if he hadn't been making money hand over fist? Not a chance. For all it's "underground" cache, the owners were living well. Were he alive, Hilly would likely be shopping at Varvatos. Hell, he'd probably be licensing a $400 Varvatos-designed Swarovski-crystal-encrusted cashmere "CBGBs" t-shirt.

I suspect having it close, in the end, may have even been good for business. Nothing beats martyrdom for sellin' t-shirts.


Hi Seth,

I'm running out the door, so I'll just quote from the Take It To The Bridge website:

This is not about one music space, or just about cb's, or whether you thought Hilly was a good businessman or not, or whether you gigged there - - but it is about the type of intense gentrification being used to sell the Lower East Side; it is about the co-opting of culture to sell overpriced luxury goods. This is about small music and cultural and community spaces getting pushed out of the city, so that the wealthy can position themselves as saving it (or just the buildings) ... but in fact, only using it as a marketing tool for their unaffordable wares.

And while I agree with them that's this fight is more about the general trend of live music getting pushed off Manhattan in favor of overpriced ersatz edginess, I should also note that our first gig, ever, was at the CB's downstairs lounge, in 2005.

Seth Gordon

My own first NYC gig was at CB's 313...

I dunno. It's sad, sure, but I don't have moral opposition to it. One of the great things about NYC is the constant state of flux around us. Did Times Square lose some of it's "charm" through Disneyfication? Yeah. But is the city better off with fewer crack dealers and street hustlers?

As to the East Village, this gentrification has been going on for 20 years. I suppose I just find it odd that people are all of a sudden getting up in arms about it. The time to cause a stink was circa 1985.

The Village / LES "community" was never a true, local community in the sense of people who actually lived here - it was always comprised of NYU students, weekenders, etc. Nobody put down roots here so nobody was around to complain when the old 24-hour diner on Astor Place turned into a Starbucks, or when the first GAP went up, because nobody had been living here long enough to give a crap. Compare it to, say, Park Slope, where people put down roots and actually form a "community" - walk down 5th Ave and it's one small mom-n-pop business after another. There's an actual local economy being supported by the people who live there. That never existed in the East Village - it always relied primarily on tourists and transients. Of course it was going to go the way of Times Square eventually. We're watching the same thing happen to Williamsburg now. Nobody cares, because 80% of the residents have lived there less than four years.

Because you had the same situation on the LES, it took until Tonic and CBs - the "tourist" places - closed for people to notice. A hundred other cool little places took a dirtnap before they did. Any complaining now is too little, too late.

Is this all bad? Yes - for US. But it's good for someone else. I find all the wailing and moaning a bit selfish, to tell the truth. Ask the old woman who owns the little Dominican restaurant around the corner from me, who's lived and run a business here her whole life, if it was good for her that people with money moved into the neighborhood - the place is mobbed until 3AM every night. She's not complaining.

It's a simple formula - have product that people want at a price people are willing to pay, and you won't go out of business. Hilly Kristal no longer had a product people wanted - OF COURSE he was going to close down. You can say Tonic was a different case, since the lot was sold to condo developers, but note that they haven't re-opened anywhere else. I suspect that, even had that ugly "BLUE" tower not been built, and their landlord been on the up-and-up, they wouldn't have lasted much longer anyway. How many shows did I go to there in the last decade where I was one half a dozen patrons? Is that the fault of the developers? Or is it because the audience for live experimental music has dwindled? Again, they didn't have the product.

John Varvatos apparantley does. I challenge TITTB's assessment of Varvatos et al's "unaffordable wares" - obviously SOMEONE can afford them, or they wouldn't be in business.

Anyway, just my 2 cents, as usual.


It's a simple formula - have product that people want at a price people are willing to pay, and you won't go out of business.

Seth, this is magic-freemarketland-happy-talk bullshit. How is this statement even remotely true, given the hyper-inflated real-estate market on the LES? How much longer till that little Domincan restaurant (whose owner surely rents and doesn't own) gets priced out of the neighborhood, regardless of how well her food is selling?

Even in starkly economic terms, the "hundred other cool little places" on the LES are a huge part of the reason why the neighborhood is now a desirable place for rich people to live. The musicians, artists, and creative types created that value -- but it's the condo developers and storefront owners that are reaping the benefits, while the creative types get shoved out.

James Hirschfeld

I think I just puked in my mouth a little...

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