CBGB Owner Says He Won't Leave Property Without A Fight

Hilly Kristal says he's staying put and has shows booked through the fall.

Though CBGB's lease expired at midnight Wednesday, on Thursday morning the iconic cradle of punk rock was still there, and for owner Hilly Kristal it was business as usual.

"We're going to stick it out and stay here as long as we can," he said after reviewing the details of his contract with punk band the Adolescents, who are slated to perform at CBGB in little more than a week. He's also booked several shows for the fall, including the Dandy Warhols and Helmet.

"I have to fight. We should be right here. New York is a wonderful city in a lot of ways, and we're part of it. Not because of me. It's only because of what these musicians who'd played here say," he explained (see "Good Charlotte, Audioslave, Blink-182 Weigh In On CBGB's Plight As Deadline Looms"). "I didn't make this reputation, they did. I can not let this thing down. I can't give up if I think we're right in being here."

Kristal, who opened CBGB more than three decades ago, said he wasn't surprised to learn of the decision by his landlord — the Bowery Residents' Committee, a nonprofit that funds outreach programs for the city's homeless — since the organization is headed by a man who's become somewhat of an arch nemesis in recent months, BRC Executive Director Muzzy Rosenblatt.

"I had a feeling this was coming three years ago," Kristal said. "This is the most ridiculous situation. He says one thing, then he says another. First it's about the money, then it's not about the money. Then it's the relationship. We've had a very good relationship for all these years. He hasn't felt that there was a good relationship between he and me, but I have never expressed an ill feeling. It's his feeling. I don't get it, I just don't get it. He's ruthless."

Rosenblatt could not be reached for comment.

The BRC announced its decision Wednesday afternoon, while Kristal and hundreds of CBGB supporters were gathered in New York's Washington Square Park for a free concert featuring Blondie, Public Enemy, the Bouncing Souls and former Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale's latest project, Institute (see "Public Enemy, Blondie Rally For Naught: CBGB Lease Expires"). In a statement, the BRC claimed, "It is in the best interest of our clients — the homeless and neediest New Yorkers — to sever this relationship," and added that it would be appreciated if Kristal would "vacate the premises both voluntarily and expeditiously and avoid costly eviction proceedings."

"It's not over," Kristal said. "We're going to fight for it. I think we may be here into December, with a little luck. It can go that long."

The "it," of course, is a court battle to fight eviction — just what the BRC doesn't want. Those proceedings will begin as soon as the BRC files for eviction, or a "holdover proceeding" in New York City Civil Court's landlord-tenant division, according to Mary Ann Hallenborg, a practicing landlord-tenant attorney and the author of the book "New York Tenants' Rights."

Hallenborg said that soon after the filing, Kristal will be served an eviction notice but will be provided with ample time to respond. "CBGB can put in whatever answers, any defenses they might have," she explained. "They can also file counterclaims against the landlord — claims for wrongful eviction, lease provisions they'd had in the past, and so on."

Kristal can't claim he's being wrongfully evicted on the basis of a personal vendetta, which is what he suspects. "If their lease has expired and they have no further rights of renewal, the end has come, unfortunately — for an era," Hallenborg said. "Procedurally, they can try to buy some time by making various motions, but in the end, if they have no continued right to stay, they will eventually be evicted."

When that'll happen is the real question, and it all depends on "how many motions the tenant might bring and the judge might hear," Hallenborg said. "If [the motions] are absolutely frivolous, not that long. It takes a little while to even get the marshal around to carry out the eviction of a tenant. It could take several weeks to several months."