The Real Deal New York

Music venues pushed aside

With Kenny's Castaways now gone, a look at venues shuttered in recent months
By C. J. Hughes | November 01, 2012 07:00AM

The longtime record store Bleecker Bob’s on West 3rd Street, which is about to lose its home

Like checkered cabs and subway graffiti, New York’s iconic live music venues are disappearing at an increasingly rapid pace.

Many of these addresses, once suffused with reverb, have been replaced with gastropubs, clothing stores and even children’s play spaces.

The trend is not new. The Fillmore East, a 1970s hot spot in the East Village, shut down in the 1990s; the Wetlands Preserve in Tribeca closed after a 12-year run in 2001; and, of course, more recently in 2008, fashion designer John Varvatos took over the former CBGB space on the Bowery; his store now peddles vintage rock T-shirts for hundreds of dollars there.

But in light of the recent announcement that another rock venue, Kenny’s Castaways, shuttered, this month The Real Deal looked at the live music spaces (and some iconic music vendors) who have fallen by the wayside as of late. Plus, we examine what real estate forces were at work.


Kenny’s Castaways

157 Bleecker Street

Kenny’s Castaways on Bleecker Street, which shuttered early last month

Kenny’s Castaways, which had been located at its Bleecker Street location since 1976, where it hosted major acts like Bruce Springsteen, called it quits on Oct. 2.

The Kenny family, which owned the three-story building where the club was located, sold it to Allied Properties, a Brooklyn developer, according to a source close to the deal. The building sold for close to its asking price of $5.9 million, the source said.

The building sale was contingent on the retail space getting leased, another source added. That requirement was satisfied by Sergio Riva, who owns the Diner in the Meatpacking District and Cotta Osteria on the Upper West Side. Next spring, he will open a gastropub called Carroll Place there. The name, Riva said, was the one given to Bleecker in the 19th century by a developer who wanted to make it seem more upscale.

He said he’s paying Allied a blended rent of about $60 a square foot for the 5,800-square-foot space, which includes a basement and mezzanine, in a 12-year lease. That works out to about $140 a square foot for the ground floor alone, Riva said.

While that rent is far cheaper than the $400 a foot landlords command on the stretch of Bleecker west of Seventh Avenue, it’s actually comparable for its area, brokers say.

Marcus & Millichap broker Barbara Dansker, who represented both the buyer and seller in the sale, would not elaborate on the deal, which is expected to close imminently.

Though some other brokers called that price too high, Dansker said it made sense considering Bleecker’s continuing retail evolution.

“Bleecker Street has always been a very busy street, but the tenants moving from west to east are getting better and better,” she said.

The new restaurant won’t be silent either. Riva not only plans to host performances four nights a week, he’s going to enlarge the stage from 10 to 23 feet.

Allied did not return a call for comment, and Maria Kenny, the daughter of club founder Pat Kenny, couldn’t be reached.


Bleecker Bob’s

118 West Third Street

Nearby, Bleecker Bob’s record store, on West Third Street, is about to lose its home to make way for a higher-paying tenant.

The 1,600-square-foot ground-level space, which is in a five-story tenement-style building near Macdougal Street, is now being marketed for $18,000 a month — or about $135 a square foot in blended rent annually. That price — which is reportedly far more than what the record store is paying — includes the basement, though the space is currently carved up into small rooms and essentially unfinished, said Limor Eliyahu, the Point NYC broker who has the listing.

According to industry sources, Bleecker Bob’s has been suffering financially (not unlike other music stores these days) and can’t pay its rent.

The landlord, Greenwich Realty Associates, which is based on Long Island, will consider a restaurant, a bank or “anything,” Eliyahu said.

“I grew up in the ’80s, so I appreciate the smell of the store,” Eliyahu said. “But the business is dying. Do you know anybody that buys vinyl?”

Located on Third Street since the 1970s, Bleecker Bob’s, which is named for owner Bob Plotnik, earned fame as one of the first places in New York to carry punk rock LPs. According to reports, in the 1960s, before the record store moved in, the space was the Night Owl Cafe, where the pop rock band Lovin’ Spoonful played.

Efforts to reach both Plotnik and Greenwich Realty were unsuccessful.



 125 Fifth Avenue (Park Slope, Brooklyn)

The music venue Southpaw closed last February. A nursery-school chain called New York Kids Club is opening there this coming February.

Last February saw the shuttering of Southpaw at 125 Fifth Avenue in Park Slope after a decade-long run.

In February, the venue — which featured shows with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Joan Jett and Luna — will become the latest outpost of New York Kids Club, a chain that offers popular nursery-school classes. The move might not be a huge surprise considering that once-gritty Park Slope has continued to become more and more family-friendly.

As part of the changeover, Kevin Wolf and his wife, Pam, who founded New York Kids Club in 2001, have purchased the building, which has 11,400 square feet across three levels.

The couple is now adding an additional story to prepare for the club’s February opening, Kevin Wolf said.

The sale price for the building was $4 million, added Wolf, who bought it from Joseph Buzio, Jr., whose family had owned the space for decades. A woman who answered the phone at Buzio’s New Jersey home confirmed the sale but did not provide additional details.

Southpaw owner Matt Roff — who created the space out of a 99-cent store and had been leasing it — also owns Public Assembly (a club in Williamsburg) and Franklin Park Bar and Beer Garden (in Crown Heights). He did not respond to requests for comment but told the New York Times last year that his business was suffering.

“I don’t think any place in New York for live music is really bringing in enough revenue these days,” he said.

The Park Slope location will be the ninth for New York Kids and a 10th and 11th will also open soon in Williamsburg and Tribeca.

As for the building purchase in Park Slope, “We just believe that area is exploding,” said Wolf, who also owns parking garages around the city.

“If the business cycle ever changes, and this type of enrichment business is no longer in vogue, we will have a great rental space,” he said.


313 Bowery

This fall, Patagonia will open a new surf-themed clothing store at 313 Bowery, the former home of CBGB Gallery, which, for decades, hosted acoustic shows and dance parties adjacent to CBGB.

Since 2006, when both CBGB (which hosted harder rock shows) and CBGB Gallery closed, the latter 8,300-square-foot space housed a pop-up store for Riff, a Tommy Hilfiger brand, and an East Village outpost of the Morrison Hotel, the Soho art gallery.

Both CBGB spaces are owned by Bowery Residents’ Committee, an affordable housing group.

CBGB, which was paying $19,000 a year in rent, left because BRC wanted to raise the rent to $35,000, according to public reports.

In a complicated deal, Patagonia is subletting No. 313 from the Max’s Kansas City Company, a for-profit organization initially created to save CBGB, but is now involved in various real estate deals, like a rock-and-roll-themed hotel.

Patagonia declined to disclose the rent.

Similarly tight-lipped was Elliott Azrak, a Kansas City principal, saying just that Patagonia would be there “longterm.”

However, Azrak hinted that the company might host surf-rock concerts there, similar to the occasional music events staged at the CBGB-turned-John Varvatos store next door.

In fact, Azrak, a Brooklyn native, previously turned down offers from other tenants because they had no plans to celebrate the space’s legacy.

“Merging cultural history with real estate is something we feel passionate about,” he added.


107 Norfolk

Ex-venues can seem to be a tough fit for tenants.

Indeed, Tonic, which showcased experimental music at 107 Norfolk Street on the Lower East Side, sat empty for five years after closing in 2007. Its closure was also prompted by soaring rent rates, according to published reports, which also noted that several restaurants appeared close to signing deals for the 4,800-square-foot two-level space, which is owned by William Gottlieb Real Estate. No deals were ever finalized, however.

Neither the firm nor Ripco broker Jason Pennington, who is repping the space for Gottlieb, responded to calls for comment.

The single-story brick building was a kosher wine distributor before Tonic took over. Today, it is squeezed between two high-rise luxury condos — Blue at 109 Norfolk and Switch Condo at 105 Norfolk — which went up before Tonic left.

In March, gallery owner Lisa Cooley, whose showroom had been based at 34 Orchard Street since 2008, opened in the ground-floor space in a 10-year lease.

For Cooley, who used to see music at Tonic, the chance to revive an old venue was attractive. “You feel very lucky to take over a space with such interesting provenance,” she said.