As concert venues, 4th & B and Anthology couldn't have been more different. The former was a bulky space that regularly brought in hip-hop, indie-rock and pop acts—as well as the occasional dwarf-wrestling competition. The latter was a swanky supper club with high-tech audio-visual capabilities and a specialty in jazz, blues, world music and Americana.
However, these spaces have two things in common. They're both major concert venues in a city that doesn't have many. And they both closed recently, leading music fans to worry if San Diego is about to experience a sudden drop in live music.
4th & B closed in December after the club's owners, Vincent and Judy Puma, were evicted by the building's landlord for failing to make rent payments, according to news reports and a lawyer representing the landlord, Crown Invest LLC. Anthology announced it was closing last Friday in a statement to the music blog Owl & Bear; Anthology co-owner Howard Berkson told the club's employees, U-T San Diego reported, that he and his wife, fellow co-owner Marsha Berkson, will be divorcing.
4th & B's closure hasn't been catastrophic to the music scene—many of the acts with shows scheduled at the Downtown venue were able to find new places to play. House of Blues, just down the street, brings in similar acts. But Anthology's sudden closure has sent two concert organizers into a tailspin.
"I feel a little bit empty at the moment," says John Stubbs, creator of the multimedia chambermusic series Luscious Noise. "I actually had three shows scheduled for [January, March and May]," he adds. "Now, I have nothing, so I feel kind of at a loss."
Tailoring his shows for the Little Italy venue, Stubbs took advantage of Anthology's big stage and audio-visual capabilities. "Anthology had it all," he says. "I feel like I'm going to have to find another venue and invent something totally, completely different that would fit a new venue."
Nancy Laturno Bojanic, founding executive director of Mainly Mozart, also bemoans the loss of Anthology. She had contracted with the club to host Evolution, a concert series set to happen in June. Now, the classical-music organization is scrambling to find a new venue.
"We are looking at our options as we speak," she says. "Today, tomorrow, we have meetings."
San Diego's always been a rough place for the live-music business. There are fewer regular concertgoers than in big markets like Los Angeles and New York City, and ticket buyers aren't always proactive. A hot buzz-band that would easily sell out a venue in a bigger city might have a harder time selling tickets here, promoters say.
Getting people to attend more experimental shows is even harder. Bonnie Wright, curator of the Fresh Sound concert series, regularly worries whether enough people will show up to her shows, which have lately focused on improvisational, forward-thinking jazz.
"It's so hard to get an audience," she says. "Mostly, people like the things that they heard in high school. Many people venture out, but, often, music is used for comfort. And when something is pushing the boundaries, it's not comfortable."
It's unclear what will happen with the venues. Michael Pritchard, Anthology's former director of music operations, told the U-T that the club's owners launched a search for a buyer. 4th & B may go back to its previous owner.
The Pumas have been in a court battle with Ali Nilforushan, who sold them the venue in 2009. In a tentative ruling delivered on Christmas Eve, San Diego Superior Court Judge Jacqueline M. Stern decided that the Pumas would have to pay Nilforushan for balances owed on promissory notes from the purchase, along with other costs, plus interest, penalties and legal fees—a sum amounting to roughly $1.5 million. The ruling also orders the Pumas to forfeit their 4th & B shares, assets and business to Nilforushan.
But the decision is preliminary, and it could be a few weeks before the judgment is finalized. Even if the court does rule in Nilforushan's favor, he isn't likely to hold onto the business, says Sean Foldenauer, a lawyer for Nilforushan.
Whatever happens, many would agree with the sentiment of Chuck Perrin, the local jazz promoter behind Dizzy's.
"I think it's sad to see any venue for live music to close," he says. "It's just going to be another place that people can't go to see things."
In a caption in last week's Smoking Patio, we incorrectly identified a person in the photo. It was Lety Beers, not Lety McKenzie. Also, in a caption for a photo of the band Boy King, we called them Boy Kings. We apologize for the errors.