CBGB: History of The Legendary Club in Manhattan

Hilly Kristal founded CBGB on the Bowery in New York City in 1973, and it quickly became a venue for American punk and new wave bands. The CBGB club provided a venue for budding artists and musicians that had no other options.

Hilly Kristal founded CBGB on the Bowery in New York City in 1973 with the intention of featuring its namesake musical styles, but it quickly became a venue for American punk and new wave bands such as the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Misfits, Television, Patti Smith Group, The Dead Boys, The Dictators, The Cramps, and Joan Jett.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the CBGB club provided a venue for new artists and bands who had nowhere else to go. While the venue’s proprietors first wanted to promote the genres of its namesake, they quickly discovered that their reach was too narrow.

On December 10, 1973, CBGB OMFUG initially opened its doors. The pub was located on the Bowery in Manhattan’s East Village district, near to a host of other clubs and shops. When owner Hilly Kristal first launched the pub, he named it after the music he expected to hear onstage.

CBGB’s founder, Hilly Kristal, had two basic rules: 1) all bands had to bring their own equipment in and out, and 2) only original music could be performed (no covers allowed). At the time, a completely new underground music scene was forming, and many local bands were seeking for a venue to perform their music. Bands began lined up to perform since there were no other choices.

CBGB swiftly rose to prominence in New York’s underground music scene. This was due to a variety of issues, the most important of which was that Kristal did not immediately guarantee that bands would be paid. Hilly Kristal provided them with the majority of the door money to meet their bills.

Gentrification became rampant in New York City in the 1990s. The ever-grungy CBGB was influenced by the city’s shift, and the bar gradually began to lose its position in a changing metropolis. This, combined with numerous complaints from neighbors about the loud music, resulted in fewer bands scheduling concerts, until there were no bands performing at all.

The Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC) sued CBGB in 2005 for $90,000 in arrears, on top of its typical monthly rent of $19,000. Lifelong CBGN fans attempted to preserve the venue from closing, and a judge finally found that the sum due was fictitious. But, despite months of negotiations, CBGB and the landlord were unable to reach an agreement on a new rent figure.

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