Cool, if it works out. The founder of CBGB, Hilly Kristal, has died, and his former wife, Karen, is disputing ownership. She probably just wants a percentage, doesn’t sound like she has any plan to try to reopen the club on her own.
The notorious urinal that served patrons of the famed New York rock club CBGB for 33 years now sits retired in a basement in Manhattan’s posh SoHo district.
Plucked from the graffiti-covered walls when the club closed in 2006, the urinal is among several CBGB artifacts — such as the gritty “CBGB & OMFUG” awning that hung over 315 Bowery and a phone booth covered with punk-rock band stickers — donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC, which opened its doors last week.
The donation is just one step taken by entrepreneurial group CBGB Holdings LLC to revive the brand and transform it once more into a money-making business — without jeopardizing its counter-culture past.
Last month, the group struck a distribution deal with Bravado, a Universal Music Group company that markets rock-themed merchandise around the world, to help sell millions of CBGB T-shirts. Next summer, the Vans Warped Tour music festival will showcase an interactive CBGB exhibit.
These deals were crafted by two men who believe there’s life after death for the landmark venue: James Blueweiss, a marketer who began advising the club a year before it closed, and Robert Williams, a veteran of the retail music business who helped open HMV stores around the world. The two attracted capital from angel investors and paid $3.5 million for the rights to the CBGB brand in 2008. Their company, CBGB Holdings, owns all intellectual property, domestic and international trademarks, copyrights, video and audio libraries, ongoing apparel business, Web site and physical property of the original club.
I never lived in New York, but I have gone to a couple of shows there, and yes, it was a bit of a dive. So many famous groups played there that CBGB will always be part of rock music history.