The Bottom Line: Manhattan court rules to evict club
December 4, 2003 5:34 PM   Subscribe

The Bottom Line: Manhattan court rules to evict club. A New York City Greenwich Village landmark, The Bottom Line Cabaret, which has let the music play from such stars as Bruce Springsteen for close to 30 years, has been evicted after falling behind by nearly 3 years with is rent and not being able to work out a long-term with it's landlord: New York University (NYU).

This comes despite the cash contributions from celebrities like Springsteen and Viacom's CEO, last-minute corporate sponsorships from AT&T and others, and the efforts of fans around the world. Even the best efforts of fans at weren't able to save the club, which says it may consider shopping around for some new digs. But, as of now, The Bottom Line is homeless.
posted by nyukid (31 comments total)
Oh, in case you missed this in the article: NYU plans on converting the club into new classrooms, a commodity of which it is always short.
posted by nyukid at 5:35 PM on December 4, 2003

Three years behind on rent, and they're only now getting evicted? That is one tolerant landlord.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:44 PM on December 4, 2003

NYU plans on converting the club into new classrooms

Hmmm, early reports I read implied that NYU was eager to cash in on the valulable real estate.
posted by machaus at 5:44 PM on December 4, 2003

"As a result of NYU's action, the music that has played for nearly thirty years at 15 West 4th Street will soon be silenced."

Seems to me the folks who didn't pay the rent are responsible for silencing the music.
posted by headspace at 6:05 PM on December 4, 2003

NYC is its own universe where rent controls lead people to believe paying fair market values for rent comes secondary to who or what the renter is.
posted by stbalbach at 8:22 PM on December 4, 2003

Regardless of the reasons, this is a shame. The Bottom Line, along with the Mudd Club, CBGB/OMFUG and The Blue Note are icons and should have been declared historical sites. These clubs did more to change the face of music than all the lame Beatles singles and Rolling Stones shows combined.

NYU sucks. There has been an influx of cash and a judge has offered to mediate. They have shown no flexibility whatsoever. They can get their owed money -- they just don't want it anymore. Anyone familiar with the club and with the NYU facilities is aware that they just ain't gonna be able to put enough classrooms in that space to justify the renovations, and that they own plenty of other property that is better suited to their stated intended use.

They're going to sell this puppy within a year and gentrifying the Bottom Line should be a crime. Washington Square Municipal Parking Garage anyone? Fucking Philistines.

[personal disclosure] Seeing pre Born to Run Bruce, Iggy Pop, the Ramones and Lou Reed in his prime were transforming events for this kid from the 'burbs. [/personal]
posted by cedar at 8:51 PM on December 4, 2003

This is the important part:

A number of backers, including Sirius Satellite Radio and Bruce Springsteen (who played a legendary five-night stand at the club in 1975) offered financial support to the club that would have more than covered the cost of the back rent.

So obviously it's not just about getting the back rent.

Club owners Allan Pepper and Stanley Snadowsky were seeking a long-term lease from the University, but the sides couldn't agree on numbers. NYU demanded renovations and thought the club's current $11,000 per month rent was half of the market rate, a figure the club disputed.

Sounds much more like it's about increasing the amount of revenue from the property to me. It certainly doesn't smell like they just wanted more classroom space.

stbalback: when it comes to some places, NYC included, the terms "fair" and "market value" for rent/land prices start to take on a distorted (if any) connection. Value to the property owner should always be a consideration, but never the only one.
posted by namespan at 8:58 PM on December 4, 2003

Seems to me the folks who didn't pay the rent are responsible for silencing the music.

I'm with headspace. The Bottom Line was in trouble for years before there was legal action. Where were the celebrities with their money and all the fists in the air then?

Living in Austin, Texas, where historic live music venues are closed all the time, usually with sob stories just like this one, it's easy to become jaded. As a live music fan, it's always sad to me... but as one who also believes that someone receiving a product or service should have to actually pay what they promised (real money, even!), I don't get all het up about it anymore.

The problem seems often to be one of two things: either the sorts of people that care enough about live music to be good venue owners are not also business-minded enough to be effective managers; or, times change, tastes and trends evolve, and a venue just dies a natural death.

Sad? Of course. Philistine? Hardly.
posted by pineapple at 9:19 PM on December 4, 2003

The Bottom Line hasn't had a good show in years. It's yuppie music for suburbanites, and they don't come into the city to see rock acts anymore.
posted by Slagman at 9:29 PM on December 4, 2003

What Slagman said. Honestly, every time I walked by The Bottom Line, I'd check out the show listings, and not once in four years did I find something worth seeing. Buddy and Julie Miller? No thanks. I always pictured the Bottom Line crowd to be like the aging hippies on the Simpsons. You know, with the one voiced by George Carlin.

Not that I love NYU any more than the next guy; they are a land-grabbing monster, and I gave them more money than I care to think about, and dealt with horrible bureaucracy that made me want to die on a regular basis, but c'mon, fair is fair. Three years delinquent on rent? There's no excuse. I'm willing to bet (given recent renovations, and considering they have classrooms on Astor Square and in the Puck Building) they actually will use the space for classrooms, but whatever. They're the landlords.

So the lesson learned today: live in the now. Go to North Six or Knitting factory and don't cry when a nostalgia factory twenty years past its prime is taken out back and euthanized.
posted by The Michael The at 9:41 PM on December 4, 2003

"... and a venue just dies a natural death"

If that's all there is to it they should have leveled Carnegie Hall the day after Chicago played.

"So the lesson learned today: live in the now."

Bah. NYC makes some house most people will never see that some dead guy most people never even heard of lived in for three months back in 1883 and makes it a historical site. Why not treat the icons of our adolescent years (well, mine at least) with the same respect?

The Talking Heads, The Ramones and Lou Reed had a lot more impact on me that Josef VonHugenburg the Third and his little crackerbox shack on Staten Island. I expect I'm not in the minority here. It's all history, just from different perspectives.

As far as Austin goes, you have no history.

Liberty Lunch? They consider the Mats and My Bloody Valentine as important bands? The Replacements played every shack between Minnesota and Tampa, and trashed most of them. If you counted every place the Stinson boys spent a lot of time in as important, you'd be making vomit covered piles of mud in dirt parking lots into shrines.

Soap Creek Saloon: Oh yeah, trendsetting seminal musicians the likes of, Greezy Wheels, the Lost Gonzo Band, Marcia Ball's Freda & the Firedogs, Plum Nelly, Augie Meyers & the Western Head Band, and Alvin Crow & the Pleasant Valley Boys.

The Armadillo was a hall rather than a club so doesn't count -- it's also been gone for twenty years so we may just as well talk about the Fillmore.

How many clubs that are closing today were in business for more than thirty years? Okay, that's not fair, I have nothing to base that on -- but the point is you have heard of the Bottom Line and I couldn't name a club in Austin under threat of death. It's a matter of scale.

Nothing against Austin... but it is in Texas.
posted by cedar at 10:20 PM on December 4, 2003

jeez, cedar, look down your nose much?
posted by notsnot at 11:08 PM on December 4, 2003

How many clubs that are closing today were in business for more than thirty years? Okay, that's not fair, I have nothing to base that on -- but the point is you have heard of the Bottom Line and I couldn't name a club in Austin under threat of death. It's a matter of scale.

Eesh, get over yourself, or NYC at least. I live in Toronto and have heard of Emo's, Jazz, the Cactus Cafe, the Back Room, and the Continental Club. Hate to break it to you but they're all in... Austin, TX. I'd bet that Emo's was one of the most influential clubs (as far as booking goes) in North America in the the 90s. Not to mention, ever heard of SXSW? You know, that music festival that kicks NYC's CMJ's ass every year? Guess what. It's held in Austin.

The Bottom Line hasn't paid its rent in THREE YEARS, I'd hardly say that constitutes "in business". Sounds like a they would have been closed in 1999 or 2000 if it weren't for the generosity of NYU.
posted by dobbs at 11:10 PM on December 4, 2003

Okay... I'm done.

I'm just one of those aging hippies that hates to see a venue that has done so much, for so many, close due to greed. That's all it is, greed. Let there be no mistake, though they have been remiss in the past, the funds are available to pay the past due in full. A judge mediating would help to prevent these lapses in the future. But that's not good enough, NYU needs more classrooms. Forget the fact they are a huge landlord with larger and better properties sitting vacant -- they simply must have this space.

As far as Austin goes I'm sure it's a wonderful city -- someday when I have the time to better explore 'new media' and cutting edge music I hope to attend SXSW. But it just ain't the same thing. And it's in Texas.

I'm just not cool enough for you guys. I happen to believe that all of the bands so highly touted at SXSW would not exist if not for the auspices of the Bottom Line and similar clubs in LA and New York.

Austin is like Athens, GA in 1985 or Seattle in 1990. All the cool kids are there, doing whatever they do and carrying on about how important and bleeding fucking edge they are, trendsetters and tastemakers, each and every one of them -- but in another few years it will be Sirocco, NM or Boise. New York and 14th St. isn't going anyplace, has always been there and always will be.

Anyway, it is in Texas.
posted by cedar at 11:33 PM on December 4, 2003

I understand where you're coming from, cedar. Really, I do. In Toronto we have/had a club called The Elmocambo. You may have heard of it. The Stones played a legendary gig there in the 70s, as did Elvis Costello--the set was released as part of EC's first box set in the early 90s--and many other artists. They've had financial trouble for years and a couple years back they "closed". The guy who books the club took his skills to another venue and has booked many great gigs since. Now the place that took the Elmo's spot is in financial trouble and it appears the "real" Elmo will be returning to the Elmo, so to speak. It's all very hard to keep track of.

At the same time, dismissing NYU's moves as "simply greed" seems rather naive to me. No doubt they've been on the Bottom Line's ass for ages trying to get that rent and TBL has simply taken their generosity for granted. Now that NYU has had it (and probably spent months/$ planning what to do with the land) and given them an order to get out, the club sends out press releases and hopes that folks like you will yell enough to increase the pressure and ensure they stick around. In my opinion, if the venue was truly appreciated in NYC, it wouldn't be having financial difficulty, but hey, maybe I'm the one being naive.
posted by dobbs at 12:15 AM on December 5, 2003

[voiceover] Had Miles and Evans gone to the police in the first place, this would have never happened. [/voiceover]

My jury's still out on this one. My boss mentioned it the other day in passing. I'll have to ask further about this in the morning...
posted by bluedaniel at 12:20 AM on December 5, 2003

That's right, cedar -- you can't all be from Texas. But in the infamous words of Lyle Lovett, who you've surely never heard of since he's not from NYC, "Texas wants you anyway." As for your "matter of scale" -- I'd never heard of the Bottom Line Cabaret before the FPP. Really, it's all relative.

If you're "not cool enough," it's not because you're an aging hippie, but because you chose to ignore my whole point in favor of railing on Austin. Fortunately, dobbs reiterated it quite succinctly:

"...if the venue was truly appreciated in NYC, it wouldn't be having financial difficulty." If anyone actually patronized the Bottom Line any more, rather than bombastically declaring how it's done "so much for so many" in a dreamy haze of puff-puff-pass nostalgia, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
posted by pineapple at 2:14 AM on December 5, 2003

I don't know what they've been doing the last 15 years, but the Bottom Line sure sucked back in the 80s. Because they had tables and you didn't have to stand, the music biz people would turn out, and indie bands would invariably play a safe set for a group of professionals with no enthusiasm. Even good bands put on lousy shows there.

Nostalgia is for people who don't actually remember the way things were.
posted by fuzz at 3:07 AM on December 5, 2003

I'd just like to take this moment to pay my regards to The Rat in Boston. The Rathskeller (or Rat) always played second fiddle to CBGB's, but was one of the most storied and influential clubs of the 70's and early 80's. The Talking Heads played there in '76, the Cars got their break there, as did Aerosmith. The Rat played host to a slew of "before they were big" groups like the Police, the Ramones, Sonic Youth, the Minutemen, and the Pixies. Husker Du opened for REM in '84. Nirvana never played there, but Kurt Cobain met Mary Lou Lord in the Rat.

"[I]n the physical plant of the place, above all, is a kind of monument to Punk and what it hoped to accomplish. The swiss cheese rug lies beneath the feet of the new audience just as it once lay beneath the feet of Patti Smith on her way to the boards. Real rats still peer out of corners at loading and unloading bands with eyes like broken green bottles. Once I saw a rat jump from a second-floor window into the parking lot, then pause for a second, give a shake and run off. Perhaps that is the sort of metaphor for rock and roll that only the Rat can provide."

The Rat was torn down in a general modernization plan of Boston University to make Kenmore Square more 'upscale' for the parents visiting their kids in the Big Bad City. Now it's a commercial wasteland, a shell of what it used to be. I'm surprised they haven't torn down the Citgo sign, yet.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:36 AM on December 5, 2003

Civil Disobedient, don't forget about Mission of Burma. This brilliant, but vastly underrated and shockingly uknown band practically lived at the Rat in the early 80's.

I didn't know they tore it down. This makes me very sad, indeed. It was also the place where I played my very first show with my first "real" band in 1987.
posted by psmealey at 5:27 AM on December 5, 2003

The Bottom Line hasn't had a good show in years.

Hey now... I saw Suzanne Vega there last year. One of the best shows I've seen in a long time.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:34 AM on December 5, 2003

Btw, as a small business owner, I can tell you that there are any number of reasons why lessee might fall behind on rent (e.g.: to protest actions taken or not taken by the landlord), very few just go willfully delinquent simply due to poor business conditions. The article just doesn't provide enough details to judge. It looks like they wanted to reach a settlement at the end, but NYU just wanted them out... FWIW.
posted by psmealey at 6:48 AM on December 5, 2003

XM Radio plays Missions of Burma all the time.
posted by stbalbach at 7:53 AM on December 5, 2003

cedar, wanna talk about greed? I've seen precisely two shows at the Bottom Line in the six years I've lived in NYC. Both cost over $20 admission, which is about average for the venue. In addition to paying the ticket price, patrons are *required* to buy 2 drinks or food. Know how much a beer costs there? Five bucks for domestic! And a plate of below-average battered and fried bar food? About $12.

For all of this tithing, you are offered no choice of where to sit, and often will find yourself sandwiched between complete strangers, unable to get to the bathroom or talk to your friends.

Meanwhile, the band you are seeing will perform for approximately 1 hour. Because they do two shows a night. Last show I saw there was the Flatlanders--who are generally given to pretty rollicking extended live shows--and even they didn't play for too much longer than an hour.

So, two shows a night, at +/- $20 a ticket, and a two-drink minimum, and they can't pay rent for 3 years? Either it's greed, or maybe, as TheMichaelThe pointed out, it's hubris: They've completely lost touch with what bands people want to see these days.

I guess all those Rockapella and Hot Tuna fans will have to go elsewhere.

Granted, I also sense that NYU is seeing dollar signs. (Though it's entirely possible that they might want to convert the place into classrooms, as their plan is to centralize all the academic buildings, which are a bit farflung at this point.)

It's a shame that the Bottom Line will likely go the way of Gerde's and the Gaslight, also estimable historic venues--but what should be done? Turn the whole place into one gigantic reliquary? Because its days as a useful, appealing, and profitable music space are over.
posted by cowboy_sally at 8:48 AM on December 5, 2003

I've heard of the Bottom Line because Jane Siberry has done a lot of shows there in the last few years, and recorded three of them. (One is a fantastic holiday music concert.) Last year I enjoyed listening to a broadcast from there of "The Downtown Messiah" on NPR - a great folk/jazz reworking of the Handel oratorio.
posted by dnash at 8:56 AM on December 5, 2003

I guess all those Rockapella and Hot Tuna fans will have to go elsewhere.

*Packs up poke. Cries*

Actually, I was gonna see Levon Helm at the Bottom Line last year but circumstances intervened. Plus I had heard a lot of talk from my uncles and other older guys about the legend of the place. Now I never will. Bummer.
posted by jonmc at 9:24 AM on December 5, 2003

jonmc, IMO, at least, the legend was gone from there long ago. With the ascendance of other places in the area in the late 80's and early 90's (Knitting Factory, the Ritz - now gone, Maxwell's in Hoboken, the Bowery Ballroom, the Luna, etc), the Bottom Line has been more or less irrelevant for the past 15 years at least, showcasing only bands that were in their prime only back in its own heyday.

I think cowboy_sally hits the nail on the head. It was also a helluva'n expensive place to see a rock show, and you were invariably seated in cramped quarters next to some folks you would gladly move to get away from if they sat down next to you in the subway. Even back in those days as a high schooler in the early 80s, I much preferred the cheapie joints on Bourbon Street (the Bitter End, Kenny's, etc.) to the Bottom Line.

If you want to visit a genuine NYC rock landmark, go check out CBGB. The place still manages to retain the gritty aesthetic of the glory days, even if the nowadays the clientele is a little more reserved, the sound guy is a elitist prick and the bands that play there nowadays aren't quite as "important" as the ones back in the day. The backstage area is pretty darn cool, with the band stickers, names carved into the wood, etc... But if you go, stay off of the elevated crapper downstairs... unless you are a bit of an... uh... exhibitionist.
posted by psmealey at 9:55 AM on December 5, 2003

cedar: If you really want to get serious about "history," The Village Vangard is historic, as far as the American sense of "historic" goes. And Austin's importance to American music (which has not always been centered in New York - for gosh sakes, god amighty, unbelievable, etc.) history goes back as far as the opening of the Bottom Line. The Austin musical renaissance began around the same time the Bottom Line opened, and I'd count the former as more important to American pop and folk music in its entirety, as far as influence goes.
posted by raysmj at 12:10 PM on December 5, 2003

Village Vanguard, rather. Woops.
posted by raysmj at 12:12 PM on December 5, 2003

psmealey: trust me, back in my younger days, I spent plenty of time at CBGB's. and I've seen shows at the Ritz and Roseland and other places. I just occassionally have my sixties rock jones and the Bottom Line seemed to be a place to feed it. Plus as a man born out of time I always wanted at taste of what it musta been like at the Fillmore East back in '68 (my Brooklyn uncles saw just about everybody there back in the day). Ahem, I'm just too old now.

The Cafe Wha is still around, though.
posted by jonmc at 1:32 PM on December 5, 2003

I'd check out the show listings, and not once in four years did I find something worth seeing. Buddy and Julie Miller? No thanks.

It's tempting to make comments about how I'll bet you were born after 1980 and thought Dashboard Confesional or Liz Phair were the coolest before they sold out and got big, but you know what? Comments like that are almost always wrong. I'm a few days over 30 and have thought Buddy and Julie Miller are some of the better songwriters on the scene today since I was 26. So, no, the term "aging hippy" doesn't apply to me at all, and makes you sound pretty damn snobby.
posted by namespan at 6:34 PM on December 10, 2003

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