AJ Capital Companions, the brand new homeowners of revered Nashville music venue Exit/In, have named a brand new expertise purchaser for the long-lasting leisure hub and plan to re-open the shuttered venue as early as this Spring after it quickly closed in late November.
Although there had been native hypothesis and concern that AJ Capital would flip to a big promoter equivalent to Dwell Nation to e book the 51-year outdated impartial venue, the brand new homeowners are using an in-house staff with Dan Merker serving as Exit/In’s lead expertise purchaser. Merker, who oversees expertise shopping for for all AJ Capital properties, has beforehand labored at Outback Presents, HUKA Leisure and Tortuga Music Pageant.
“We’re honored to hold on the legacy of this iconic venue and lift the bar for each the fan and artist expertise,” Merker stated in a press release to Billboard. ‘We look ahead to saying 2023 reveals quickly and because the calendar will replicate, restoring Exit/In as a welcoming place for artists that span all genres and everybody inside our neighborhood.”
After shifting their headquarters from Chicago to Nashville in 2020, AJ Capital Companions in July 2021 acquired the beloved Exit/In, positioned at 2208 Elliston Place, in addition to the adjoining Hurry Again bar, for $6.45 million from Anthony Leases (representing property homeowners the Nash and Anthony households). AJ Capital says they plan to proceed Hurry Again as a restaurant/bar idea. A consultant for the Nash and Anthony households declined to talk for this story. AJ Capital Companions formally take over operations of Exit/In on Jan. 1, 2023.
Along with the Graduate Resort chain, AJ Capital owns and developed the buildings that home two present music trade entities: Dwell Nation’s Nashville workplace within the Nashville Warehouse Co., and newly opened Nashville headquarters for the Academy of Nation Music, each in Nashville’s Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood.
AJ Capital Companions additionally owns the Memphis, Tennessee venue Minglewood Corridor. Different venues in AJ Capital Companions’ portfolio embrace New Orleans’ Pleasure Theater, The Senate in Columbia, S.C., Houston’s White Oak Music Corridor, and Iron Metropolis in Birmingham, Ala. AJ Capital additionally has plans for a 4,500-capacity music venue in Nashville’s Wedgewood-Houston space.
“The Exit/In has been Nashville’s music discussion board for 51 years, beneath the stewardship of greater than two dozen operators over that point,” Tim Ryan, Chief Funding Officer, Graduate Resorts, informed Billboard through a press release. “In the end, the venue’s historical past, legacy and soul belong to Nashville. As the subsequent stewards in line, we’re dedicated to doing no matter is important to revive her to good well being and set the stage for one more legendary half-century and past. AJ’s monitor document of restoring and reviving historic areas speaks for itself, each right here in Nashville and throughout our portfolio.”
After AJ Capital takes over the venue’s operations on Jan. 1, 2023, it plans to renovate the Exit/In’s loos and inexperienced room. Updates may even embrace refreshing of the constructing’s west-facing outer wall, which beforehand showcased a mural that includes artists who’ve carried out at Exit/In. The mural has since been painted over.
Since opening in 1971 with a efficiency by Jimmy Buffett, the bare-bones, 500-person capability Exit/In has been one of many metropolis’s most enduring and well-liked venues, and a mainstay of Nashville’s rock music scene, internet hosting a various slate of artists, together with Billy Joel, Etta James, Johnny Money, Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, Muddy Waters, Jason and the Scorchers, R.E.M and extra. On the again cowl of The Police’s Zenyatta Mondatta, Sting is seen carrying an Exit/In shirt. Episodes of the CMT collection Western Beat with Billy Block — which grew out of Block’s Western Beat Roots Revival — have been taped at Exit/In starting in 2000.
In 2021, AJ Capital filed a request to designate the Exit/In as a historic landmark, and historic overlays have been accredited for a piece of the property.
The switchover in possession has not been with out controversy as the newest operator, Chris Cobb, had been passionately against the change. Cobb, whose title had grown synonymous with the venue, has been an integral a part of Exit/In for 18 years. In 2012, he partnered with Josh Billue to supervise Exit/In, and have become its sole operator since 2019 till the final present beneath his watch on Nov. 23.
In February, as Exit/In went on the block, Chris Cobb and his spouse Telisha, partnered with Grubb Properties’ Dwell Venues Restoration Fund, an entity that helps membership operators turn out to be homeowners, to attempt to purchase the property. The Cobbs additionally launched a GoFundMe marketing campaign that reached its preliminary $200,000 purpose, in the end elevating greater than $271,000, however have been unsuccessful in shopping for the membership. Cobb pledged to donate the cash raised to the Nationwide Unbiased Venue Affiliation (NIVA) and to Music Venue Alliance (MVAN). Cobb was unavailable for remark by press time.
In April 2021 Cobb additionally filed trademark purposes for the title “Exit/In Nashville’s Music Discussion board,” in addition to “Exit/In Nashville Music Discussion board Fifty Years and Counting 50,” which have been subsequently opposed by AJ Capital in October of this 12 months. The opposition submitting from AJ Capital contended that in response to license agreements, tenants have been granted a restricted license to make use of the title Exit/In on the leased premises solely, and that the owner “always shall retain sole and unique possession and proper to the title Exit/In topic solely to the restricted license granted herein.”
There isn’t a phrase on when the patent workplace will hand down its resolution.
The Exit/In has lengthy served because the anchor for the geographic space dubbed The Rock Block, which over the a long time has included The Finish, Elliston Place Soda Store, Obie’s Pizza and The Gold Rush. The Rock Block was commemorated with a historic marker in 2020.
Ned Horton, whose The Horton Group operated Exit/In from 1998 via 2001, says, “Actual property in Nashville has been going via the roof, residence neighborhoods are altering and in speedy style. So to be beholden to a landlord in working a enterprise does have its limitations infrequently. AJ controls its future by proudly owning the constructing and the land. Nevertheless it does look like the brand new homeowners are well-intentioned and have the capital to do somethings that others possibly couldn’t previously.”
Rick Whetsel, who operated Exit/In from 2003-2006, says, “It’s actually thrilling to have an proprietor with deep pockets. As caretakers or stewards of Exit/In, we’ve at all times form of financed issues out of our personal pockets. Caring for upgrades and fixing numerous issues, we tended to form of delay repairs or kick issues down the highway a bit. It’s good that somebody has the cash and capital they should care for the constructing and put it on the trail to a great future. The Exit/In is such an necessary a part of not simply the music trade, however the metropolis of Nashville. There’s such a way of historical past and you may really feel that power if you end up in there.”
“Change just isn’t at all times a nasty factor,” Whetsel added. “Monetary safety is an excellent factor. It’s good to know that the place will likely be right here and in a position to function as a venue for a very long time. The stewardship of Exit/In, they understand it’s a massive deal. You must go on the market and construct bridges and turn out to be a part of the neighborhood and they’re. It’s superb the work that myself, Chris Cobb, Josh Billue, and others previously couple of a long time have been in a position to do, to get the Exit/In on the proper path. The Exit/In has at all times been right here and it wants to remain right here.”