House of Blues Seeks Home

“House of Blues is not coming to the building bounded by Fifth and Sixth and Broadway,” says a well-connected source. “I understand they have walked away from the Woolworth’s building.”

It was announced in the fall of 1998 that the former Woolworth’s building was to hold a new 1000-seat House of Blues music venue that would be up and running by this summer. “It is my understanding that they will probably wait until the new ballpark comes and they will probably build one there,” said the insider.

Not so fast, says Ann Wills, who handles corporate publicity for HOB Entertainment, Inc. “We are scheduled to open in the original [Woolworth’s] building by July 2001.”

The misunderstanding may have to do with the fact that two other lease agreements between the HOB and American National Investment, which owns the building, have been scrapped. “We had signed leases [with HOB] twice in the past, but we could never meet the financial contingencies, so those agreements are void at this point,” said Gina Champion-Cain of American National. “We are working to put together a third lease without a financial contingency.” She said it is her understanding that HOB will be located at the original site.

The national chain of House of Blues nightclubs is part of HOB Entertainment, which also includes HOB Concerts, the second-largest concert company in the U.S. (Number one is SFX, which is being purchased by the Clear Channel broadcasting conglomerate.) Locally, HOB Concerts controls SDSU’s Cox Arena, Coors Amphitheater, and SDSU’s Open Air Theater.

If the local HOB nightclub does come, it is presumed it would draw many name acts that would normally have played the independently owned 4th&B nightclub. In spite of the pending talent-buying war, 4th&B owner Bob Speth said he will work with House of Blues Concerts until that local HOB club opens. He has allowed HOB to present the Bangles and De La Soul at 4th&B.

“Other acts like Ted Nugent or Dream Theater, we have a history with, so we present them ourselves.” In the case of Gregg Allman, Speth said he shared the show with House of Blues because HOB claimed to have a history with that artist in the past. In such “split” arrangements, the two entities share the profit or loss.

Meanwhile, the House of Blues has recruited Belly Up Tavern general manager Rocky Deimling, who will relocate to HOB’s L.A. headquarters. Deimling would not comment on his eventual assignment. Belly Up owner Dave Hodges is looking for a new general manager.

As to the future of the 25-year-old Belly Up, “It’s always been for sale,” said Hodges. “If someone steps up with a bunch of cash, it’s theirs.”

Hodges discounted one report that said he put a $600,000 price tag on the club. “That’s not enough. I’ve always said, ‘It’s $1 million. Bring me a check.’ But no one has. I am not actively seeking a buyer, and I am not in negotiations with anyone. But like everything, it’s for sale for the right price.”

As for other nightclubs on the market, a minimum price for the closed Millennium in Encinitas has been set. Court-appointed trustee Leslie Gladstone said the highest bid so far is $192,500. She said she will be accepting counter bids until August 29 to buy the remodeled club out of bankruptcy.

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