Kristal Family Sells CBGB, New Owner Speaks

Joey Ramone May 19, 1951 – April 15, 2001Francisco Daum Flowers outside of CBGB in 2001, after Joey Ramone died of lymphatic cancer.

The CBGB brand — and the merchandising empire that comes with it — changed hands three months ago, a representative of the new owners told The Local.

“We bought the entire estate, the physical assets of the former club. They dissembled it as a theatrical unit so in theory they could put it back together — say, 80 percent they salvaged,” said the spokesman for the new owners, who wished to remain anonymous in anticipation of an announcement in the coming weeks regarding the return of the legendary club. “There are all kinds of tapes, photos, and the global trademarks and licensing.”

The spokesman added that his group bought the CBGB estate from Lisa Kristal, the daughter of the founder of the club, Hilly Kristal. A man who answered the phone at Ms. Kristal’s number had no comment regarding the transaction.

“In negotiating the sale, Lisa Kristal was motivated much more by preserving the legacy of CBGB than she was by money,” said the spokesman in an e-mail. “We had to court her for seven months, proving to her that we would be the best guardians of the name. She wanted to know our plans. I would stay up until two in the morning, night after night listening to her wonderful stories and telling her about the ways in which we were going to keep CBGB alive through loud music and by supporting new bands.”

The news is the latest tidbit of information since Gothamist reported that the club would soon reopen. A flyer promoted a CBGB music festival, so it is unclear exactly how the club will “return.” The assorted CBGB gear that was being kept in Williamsburg is now being restored in a different location, according to the spokesman.

The return of CBGB will certainly spur debate. The current occupant of the CBGB space is a pricey John Varvatos boutique — a clear symbol of the rapid transformation of the Bowery and the East Village as a whole since the club closed. But there is at least one man who certainly isn’t thrilled at the news: Dana Kristal, the son of the founder of the club. After speaking with The Local several times last week, Mr. Kristal would not comment on the record about the new owners.

Dana and Lisa Kristal were part of a nasty — and well documentedfamily feud over the rights to the $3 million estate belonging to their father, who died in 2007. The dispute was settled out of court in 2009, with Lisa coming out on top.

Despite the settlement, Mr. Kristal said last week that he still had dreams of filming a movie about his experience growing up in the club — a story that would highlight his mother’s role in building CBGB.

“She was the legal owner, she never got any credit,” said Mr. Kristal of his 86-year-old mother on Friday. “In my story I’m explaining what my mother did. My mother was doing the hardcore shows, she had more balls than anyone in my family. That’s my joke, but it’s the truth.”

He is seeking a publisher and producer for the story, and added, “I’d like my mother to see it while she’s alive.”

Update | 1:55 p.m. Dana Kristal has now commented on the sale. “We don’t know that it was completely sold, or whether my sister is part owner,” he said. “Whoever says they’re the owner says they have a partner and they’re not saying who it is. My sister and her lawyer say they made a deal where only my sister can use the name in a film for up to seven years. I asked him, ‘Do you mean I can’t use the canopy?’ and the lawyer said, ‘Yes.’ If there is a new owner – I don’t know – I would like to find out from the actual owner if we can use the canopy or not.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated based on a follow-up interview with Dana Kristal.