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Judge Rules Punk Landmark CBGB Doesn't Owe Back Rent

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In a ruling that could allow the legendary club CBGB to keep rocking on the Bowery, a Manhattan civil court judge ruled Wednesday that the historic punk club doesn't owe any back rent and should be "recognized as a landmark."

The judge said CBGB lived up to its end of the bargain after it settled a previous rent dispute with its landlord, and that it can't be evicted for failing to pay the $100,000 the landlord alleged the club owed in back rent. CBGB owner Hilly Kristal argued that he was improperly billed, and the judge agreed.

However, the judge also ruled the club can be evicted when its lease expires at the end of this month, unless the club's owner and the landlord can re-negotiate.

CBGB's landlord, the non-profit Bowery Residents Committee, promised to appeal, saying the judge was wrong.

The BRC issued a statement that reads: "Although the court acknowledges that CBGB did not pay its full rent for years, it nonetheless released them from their obligation to pay what they owe. This rental income, and every dollar BRC receives, goes to help homeless people. With the millions of dollars CBGB claims to take in every year, it is unfortunate CBGB would want to withhold these funds, knowing who would benefit from them."

The club's owner says the landlord, a non-profit homeless organization called the Bowery Residents Committee, wanted to more than double his rent.

"I'm not a not-for-profit," said Kristal. "I'm not the most profitable company, but I'm not a non-profit. Nobody gives me money; no city, no state. Nobody gives me $30 million. We do it - the musicians, the fans, that's how we keep going."

While denying he withheld rent, Kristal does admit CBGB's $19,000 a month rent should go up, but not as high as he says the landlord wants.

“I can't raise it to what they want,” said Kristal. “I know it's at least $40,000-$55,000. I understand they're asking $55,000 a month."

As both sides try to negotiate a lease that would allow CBGB’s to stay in the neighborhood, NY1 spoke to local residents to see what they think about all of this.

“I hope that they stay here," said one area resident.

"CBGB is like a New York landmark, and it's really always been there, but I don't know if a place should stay in business simply because they've always been,” said another New Yorker.

“You see everybody walking around with CBGB shirts and stuff even before this whole thing started coming around, so I definitely think they should stick around," said a third.

CBGB launched many famous musicians like the Ramones, Talking Heads, Patti Smith and Blondie.

As part of its proposal for a new lease, the club has said it would find a third-party guarantor and would raise money every year with more benefit concerts. But with the landlord's appeal in the works and no deal on just how high the rent might be, there's no guarantee those concerts will ever take place.
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