Punksters Fear End Of An Era

Flava Flav, center in glasses, performs with Public Enemy during the "Save CBGB's" rally in New York's Washington Square Park, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005. The lease at CBGB, the Bowery's venerable punk club, expired at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
As hundreds of people joined guitarist Steven Van Zandt in a raucous rally of support for venerable punk club CBGB's, the club's landlord announced Wednesday that a decision had been made — its lease would expire at midnight and it would not be renewed.

The Bowery Residents' Committee, landlord of the building where the club opened its doors 32 years ago and gave the stage to the Ramones and Blondie, "believes it is in the best interest of our clients — the homeless and neediest New Yorkers — to sever this relationship," executive director Muzzy Rosenblatt said.

The statement from Rosenblatt called for CBGB's to "vacate the premises both voluntarily and expeditiously."

It was a scenario that appeared unlikely. Van Zandt and others promised a battle to the end on behalf of the bar that launched punk rock.

"We're not going without a fight," said Van Zandt, who was joined by "Sopranos" co-stars Tony Sirico and Joe Pantoliano. "If the eviction proceedings start tomorrow (Thursday), which I hope it doesn't, we'll fight it in the courts."

The rally was aimed at putting public pressure on Rosenblatt. But while Gavin Rossdale was leading his new band, Institute, through a rollicking version of "Machinehead," the decision on booting the club had already been made.

Even the hardy CBGB supporters at the rally, where Public Enemy and Blondie also performed, seemed resigned to the club's demise.

"It doesn't look hopeful," said Lucky Pierre, 26, a New York University student. "But we'll keep the fires burning until the last minute."

An increasingly frustrated Van Zandt blasted Rosenblatt for the inability to reach a new agreement. The E Street Band guitarist, "Sopranos" star and radio show host entered the negotiations about six weeks ago.

CBGB won a legal decision earlier this month when a Manhattan civil court judge ruled that the club couldn't be evicted for a bookkeeping mistake that left Kristal about $100,000 behind in his rent.

Not even the intervention of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who offered to mediate the dispute, could resolve the problem. Bloomberg said he hopes to find CBGB's a new location in the city.