CBGB Shut Down 15 Years Ago on the Bowery
Fifteen years ago. This was the night – arguably – that the last breath of punk exhaled on the Bowery. When CBGB concluded its residence at 315 Bowery.
And the block could not look any different today. The former venue became, and remains, the upscale John Varvatos boutique; while its old CB’s Gallery space is now a Patagonia outpost with focus on surfing.
Patti Smith was the headliner that night, rounding out a week of special performances that included Bad Brains, Dictators, Fishbone, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, Bouncing Souls, and Avail.
Other special guests the final night included Lenny Kaye and Jay Dee Daugherty. Even Flea cameoed to play bass. The show itself was a highly emotional affair defined by great tunes, past recollections, and plenty of tears. We were in attendance that night with, regrettably, a crappy digital camera.
The shutter of CBGB was the result of a protracted real estate dispute between club owner Hilly Kristal and the nonprofit landlord, Bowery Residence Committee. Five years earlier, they settled over the $300,000 in owed back-rent. By 2005, Kristal owed an additional $75,000, and agreed to close. It would be another year before that happened.
Once the gates shuttered for good, though, 315 Bowery immediately became a temporary shrine of sorts, with influential band names scrawled across the exterior. The graffiti was short-lived, though.
Then, like clockwork, the deconstruction began. First, the iconic red-on-white awning was torn down; later it was the interior. Boxed up for preservation. Those tributes ultimately faded from the storefront in the ensuing years.
Hilly himself passed away less than a year later, in August 2007, at the age of 75.
The address remains a unique phenomenon in that people still call it CBGB. Despite its death and the block’s subsequent rebirth into luxury.