Big House

4th & B employees learned last week that owner Ali Nilforshan sold the club to House of Blues Concerts. A former employee says 25 of 75 employees will be retained, and there are plans for a different name: "They are going to sell the name to the highest bidder."

Housed in a former bank, the club was opened by Bob Speth in 1995. He sold it to a consortium of 17 investors in 2003. Nilforshan assumed sole ownership of the concert venue two years ago when he bought out the other investors. Nilforshan reportedly spent over $4 million on a remodel.

"He spent way too much on it," says a former employee. "After three months, he figured out it wasn't working." So, four months ago, Nilforshan turned over the booking to the House of Blues.

Nilforshan does not own the building. "But [Nilforshan] just signed a ten-year master lease," says the former employee. "House of Blues got a three-year lease [from Nilforshan] with an option for another two years."

The 1100-capacity House of Blues and 1650-capacity 4th & B are a few blocks away from each other. Some speculate that House of Blues took over 4th & B with the plan to transform it into an all-age venue to compete with the 2300-capacity Soma. This September, the no-booze, all-age Soma is booked 23 out of 30 days.

The former employee says 4th & B won't go all ages because in order to do so the establishment would be required to either relinquish its liquor license or keep its liquor license and begin serving food. "That would make no sense, financially."

Calls to Nilforshan and House of Blues spokesman Jack Gannon were not returned.

The former employee says that House of Blues managers told him they want to steer the bigger-drawing acts to 4th & B.

"I was at [the House of Blues] recently, and they were all disgruntled because they had a big dent in the wall after a rap show. All those shows will come over to 4th & B now."

The former employee says the biggest news regarding the sale is that soon there will be little room for independent promoters and venues.

"You will either be in the Viejas camp or the House of Blues camp."

Viejas Entertainment recently announced it would take over the Humphrey's concert series, adding to its venue portfolio of Bayside, Viejas Casino, the Friday concerts at Del Mar during the racing season, and a semi-exclusive "first right" booking arrangement with ipayOne/Sports Arena.

Meanwhile, House of Blues controls Coors Amphitheatre, Open Air Theatre, Cox Arena, and 4th & B. House of Blues was purchased this year by Live Nation (formerly Clear Channel Entertainment).

Venues that bring big-name acts to town and remain independent include the Belly Up Tavern, Soma, 'Canes, and the Casbah.

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