Exit / Fear of Mercy Complex’s fate because funds alone cannot save him – Tennessee Lookout
In Exit / In, a lot of things are the same as before. The club organizes shows again. The owner is the same – Chris Cobb. Rent costs the same, but it is now being sent to Chicago, as one big difference is that Exit / In now has a new owner, AJ Capital Partners.
Cobb says the site is still operating in the red, and the financial documents he shared with the Tennessee Lookout show that August 2021 ticket sales were down 57% from August 2019 and that July 2021 ticket sales were 108% lower than in August 2021.
Although the Elliston Place property on which the venue is located is currently not for sale and the Cobb family’s initial offering, strongly supported by the Live Music Recovery Fund with Grubb Properties, failed, Cobb remains committed to buying the property.
“I wouldn’t like anything more for AJ Capital Partners to decide they don’t want this parcel on Ellison anymore and sell it to me,” he said.
Concert halls stand out as some of the worst-hit operations in the pandemic, and with this, a number of relief opportunities have emerged.
At some point, I’ll know it’s over. I don’t know exactly when it will be. At that point, when it is 100% clear that there is no way forward, then those funds would flow to both organizations.
– Chris Cobb, Owner, Exit / In
2020 saw the founding of Music Venue Alliance-Nashville, of which Cobb is president, and the Nashville Independent Venue Association. Both organizations distributed funds to independent sites. Most recently, Metro Nashville distributed CARES Act Grant funds to sites, and Exit / In received $50,000 of it. At the federal level, the US Small Business Administration provided $ 11 billion in grants through its grants for closed site operators – $ 374,000 went to Cobb’s reservation company. In good faith live, which books Exit / Enter.
Compared to other sites in the region, Exit / In had additional back-up flows. Her own relief concert “Nashville Helping Nashville” grossed at least $ 27,500 In ticket sales. Paramore singer Haley Williams’ ‘hot topic little bitch’ shirt brought in $ 45,000 for the place alone. A gofundme which is always active to “keep the exit / in independence” is more than $ 271,000, raised by 4.2k supporters.
“What prompted [the gofundme] was the outpouring of people reaching out and saying “hey, we wanna help, how can we?” And, you know, I don’t really have a good answer, and finally I say, ‘okay, people want to give, let’s give, let’s leave them.’ Cobb says.
As Nashville’s oldest rock and roll club, Exit / In is seen by many Tennessee residents as an intrinsic part of what makes Nashville “Music City.” (Photo: John Partipilo)
The Gofundme created in April says “if our offer fails, all the money raised will be donated to NIVA and MVAN”. Cobb told Tennessee Lookout that he plans to keep the money from this gofundme in a separate account and keep donations open until the end of the Exit / In lease at the end of 2022.
“At some point, I’ll know it’s over. I don’t know exactly when it will be. I never hope. At that point, when it’s 100% clear that there is no way forward, then those funds will flow back to both organizations, ”Cobb said.
The fear for a place like Exit / In is that the same thing will happen to the Mercy Lounge complex – which recently announced it was moving to a location yet to be determined after 20 years on Cannery Row. His lease had ended, but according to one Tennessee article, The owner of the cannery, Zach Liff, said he would continue to invest in the property and that the plan was to reopen the concert halls.
The news from the Mercy Lounge complex may come as a surprise to some, as compared to Exit / In, there has been less rallying cry from the community to save it. But, the resort has secured larger sums of money to support its three adjacent sites. The CARES Act brought in 74k and the Shuttered Venues Operations Grant gave an initial amount of $ 2.1 million and an additional $ 1 million later.
That fear is heightened for Cobb because he hasn’t been in communication with the new owners – no conversations beyond those about rent, he says.
The money from the gofundme was specifically intended to soften the deal in addition to the offer of 6.5 million euros to buy the property, backed by Grubbs Properties. Grubbs appears to be a safer option for Cobb owners – especially backed by the NIVA boss. Their goal is to raise $ 25 million in their Live Venue Recovery Fund. The catch is that this fund can only be used to buy independent sites. But with that, they’ll create a plan to put theaters in a position to buy the venue back from them within three to five years. Unlike real estate company AJ Capital, Grubbs is also an investment firm and relies on backers for this Live Venue Recovery Fund who are looking for a return on their investment.
“As they invest in the Fund, they expect a certain return on that investment. But most of the time when that happens when you invest in a fund you start to get returns and the returns can be as high as the performance allows but this one, we say, you will only get a certain percentage back, and if we do better than that percentage, then we donate the excess proceeds, ”Emily Ethridge, communications manager at Grubb Properties.
The excess proceeds will go to NIVA. So far, Grubbs has only acquired Headliners in Louisville, Kentucky. And they bid on various independent sites across the country.
Grubb says if the Exit / In property goes on sale again they would be willing to make another offer i.e. if the fund money has not already been spent on acquiring other sites .
What Exit / In has is some time before its lease ends when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2022.
“Things change and a year and a half isn’t a ton of time but it’s also a long time so I mean, I don’t know, anything could happen, I think, who knows.” Cobb said.
While the new owners only shared their Exit / In preservation guarantee, if for some reason they choose not to renew the Exit / In lease, the venue would find itself in the same position as their peers. Mercy Lounge, High Watt and Cannery Ballroom. But for now, the building is not up for grabs and grants, relief funds, benefit concerts or gofundmes can change that.