Add Highline Ballroom to the growing list of closing NYC venues

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Chelsea's well-known resident music venue, The Highline Ballroom, is set to close its doors in February due to the failed renewal of the venue's lease. In a Jan. 11 Twitter announcement, Steve Bensusan, the venue's owner, stated: "Unfortunately after 12 years our landlord has decided not to renew Highline Ballroom’s lease." The Highline Ballroom has been home to various performances, ranging from hip hop acts to local bands to drag cabarets.

The Highline Ballroom's large capacity of over 1,000 people, convenient location beneath the High Line — a public space since 2009 — and artist lofts and galleries have set the venue to be a staple for many local New Yorkers and music acts. The venue’s website cites these aspects as part of what has led artists like Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga and Carlos Santant to be “swayed by the unique ambiance of the Highline Ballroom.”

The closure of such a prominent music venue in New York City isn't an isolated event. According to Bensusan, "This is obviously a growing trend within the New York real estate market impacting various entertainment venues and businesses." New York City has long been associated with high rent and even higher competition for real estate space. Bensusan states that the Highline Ballroom’s landlord had led the tenants to believe their lease would be renewed for over a year, but, he writes, “it is now clear that the landlord has other plans for the building.” The sudden announcement of the venue’s closure was first hinted at when music insider and Club Cumming owner, Daniel Nardicio, posted “RIP Highline Ballroom” on his Facebook account on Jan. 10.

New York City has seen many other venues and clubs closed in the past decade. The Lenox Lounge in Harlem closed its doors in 2012 when the jazz club’s building was ordered to be scheduled for demolition. Webster Hall in the East Village has been closed for renovations with a specific reopening day yet to be announced. The Highline Ballroom’s sister venue, B.B. Kings Blues Club, closed in 2018. Other New York venues, American Beauty, Output, Cielo and Cornelia Café closed last year as well, according to Billboard. The owner of the Highline Ballroom and BB Kings, Blue Note Entertainment Group, has cited the increasing rent to be an issue for continuing to keep local venues open.

The Highline Ballroom’s addition to music club history has been met with various reactions from attendees and performers. Many fans grieved on Twitter over the loss of such a well-known Chelsea fixture and lamented their own memories of seeing their favorite bands or singers at the Highline Ballroom. Performers scheduled to perform at the Highline Ballroom in the upcoming year have slowly been relocating to other venues, such as the Sony Hall near Times Square and Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg.

With a final show by The Roots scheduled for Feb. 5, Bensusan has indicated that he plans on “reopening the Highline Ballroom at a new location in the Chelsea/Meatpacking District and are currently looking at options. We hope to be able to announce our plans soon.” Whether or not the Highline Ballroom returns remains to be seen.

ArtsSven LarsenComment