One of Manhattan’s nightlife staples is going corporate. After 27 years of operating multi-floor East-Village nightclub Webster Hall, the Ballinger family has announced that they will sell the 131-year-old venue to concert promotion giant AEG Presents and Barclay’s Center owners Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, according to a report in Billboard. The two firms will assume operating rights, assets and the long-term lease from building owner Unity Gallega while Bowery Presents (whom AEG purchased earlier this year) will take over booking and talent buying.
The deal originated as a Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment venture, but they eventually made the call to bring in AEG as a 50-50 partnership. Says BSE CEO Brett Yormark, “While we were having [preliminary] discussions, AEG finalized the acquisition of Bowery Presents, which used to book Webster Hall. We’re going to partner on all facets of the business, but obviously let those that know it best lead the way,” Yormark said. Up until March 2014, Bowery had an exclusive at the venue, and Yormark said that the new agreement means the Bowery team will once more be charged with programming and marketing Webster Hall.
AEG and BSE plan to spend about $10 million renovating Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom, The Studio and The Marlin Room spaces to bring them up to contemporary standards and add a few more customer features.
According to AEG chairman Jay Marciano, “You can’t replace a venue of its size and stature anywhere on the island of Manhattan, and we jumped at the chance to bring Webster Hall into our growing venue portfolio” which includes staple New York City venues like Terminal 5 and Music Hall of Williamsburg. “It would be cost prohibitive to try and build a venue like Webster Hall from scratch,” says Marciano. “Knowing what I know about New York real estate, I don’t think you could build it for less than $100 million. Webster Hall is a landmark, historic building whose use as a public assembly venue dates back to the 1800s. It’s a venue that any promoter would want to have in their portfolio.”
Yormark hopes Webster Hall and other AEG/Bowery Presents facilities become feeder venues for rising artists who aspire to play big arena shows at Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center.
“We’re trying to diversify our venue portfolio so we can connect with artists early and often,” he says. “We have a progression approach that allows us to get to know them and let them understand the experience they’ll have when they play one of our venues.”
[h/t – Billboard]