The Struggle

Two well-connected music-biz professionals say they have been told that the local House of Blues may be in trouble.

“I heard that if they don’t have a rapid turnaround [in business] by March they might be closing,” says one of them.

According to Pollstar’s 2007 rankings, of the ten House of Blues nightclubs, the local downtown venue sells the fewest tickets.

“Anybody who talks about a deadline, or that the [SD House of Blues] is closing down, is just not telling the truth,” says Nick Masters, president of Live Nation booking. “When you have five-dollar-a-gallon gas and an economy that is in the toilet, every [city] is struggling. It is not just exclusive to San Diego.”

Masters discounts the Pollstar ranking.

“I don’t know if those numbers are true or false. We don’t sit around and rank our clubs. Besides, it is silly to compare what happens in L.A. to what happens in San Diego.… We look at the club as part of an overall business unit.”

Masters does admit that Live Nation/House of Blues’ “overall business unit” in San Diego struggled last year. The corporation’s local holdings include the operation of Chula Vista’s Cricket amphitheater, SDSU’s Cox Arena and Open Air Theatre, and the Pala Casino concert series.

Live Nation took control of Street Scene early last year and lost an estimated $1 million, according to a source who’d know. (Founder Rob Hagey and the Casbah’s Tim Mays will put on this year’s Street Scene.) Last year Live Nation gave up on its agreement to operate and book 4th&B.

“As a company we were getting used to the combining of our San Diego assets,” says Masters. “It took a little bit of time to understand how to treat all that property.… We have better results this year, and we are doing better in San Diego, period.”

Masters would not comment on the details of the club’s lease.

Another insider says he did not hear specifically about a March turnaround deadline for the local HoB club, “…but I did hear that three of their clubs were in trouble: Cleveland, San Diego, and Atlantic City. And they already gave up [control of] the one in Atlantic City.”

Meanwhile, the 11th House of Blues is set to open next month in Houston.

– Ken Leighton

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