Stick a fork in it: The Birchmere’s done

After five years of wheeling and dealing, owners of the Birchmere say the club won’t be moving to Silver Spring.

According to the Washington Business Journal, owners of the Birchmere put the kibbosh on talks after MoCo and the development company backed out of their agreement.

“The Birchmere wishes to sincerely thank all of its many supporters for all of their hard work in the effort to bring the Birchmere to Silver Spring,” the Journal quoted a company statement. “The Birchmere deeply shares in their disappointment.”

Patrick Lacefield, a county spokesperson, told the Journal that negotiations with the Alexandria-based nightclub had reached an impasse. The county was already pursuing alternative development for the former JC Penney site, Lacefield said.

 

31 Responses to “Stick a fork in it: The Birchmere’s done”

  1. [...] the Penguin poll on the right side of this page. Update: This poll is closed. Click here for more information. — JD (Jul 25, 2007, at 4:36 [...]

  2. Pennster says:

    Wow, this is awful news. Horrible move by the county, horrible move.

  3. chaz says:

    Who can we directly blame for this? I want a phone number.

    Rephrasing my other post:

    The Birchmere would have been a good fit. The county is being shortsighted; they don’t see what a magnet it could have been aside from the service jobs it would have directly created and rent it may have generated. Right now that site generates jack!!

    Maybe it can be one giant cell-phone store.

  4. Sassy says:

    Good grief. I’m speechless.

  5. Pennster says:

    I’m glad the Planning Dept isn’t to blame for this disastrous turn of events.

  6. choateward says:

    Well, this is truly disappointing news. I always thought showing the will/ability to get the Birchmere deal completed would be an honest indicator of SS development progress under Ike Leggett. Unfortunately, unless the new alternate really turns out to be an equivalent replacement that can move forward soon, I’ll be worried that SS is headed back to the pre-Duncan days where no project was quite good enough, so nothing moves forward.

    One note to mention about the new alternative: I believe 10,000 sq-ft is a reduction from nearly 30,000 sq-ft planned for the Birchmere, so the new proposal seems quite a bit smaller. I don’t have a good sense for square footage requirements, so I wanted to ask if that number seems to others if it will be functionally limiting space. For those of us who don’t have a good feel for square footage, are there clubs with similar space requirements, or is the 10K footprint too small to be useful for a club?

  7. choateward says:

    Well, the “Singular” has an update with quotes from the Post saying that the county is trying to pull off a Fillmore-brand concert hall that would be nearly a 2000 seater. I don’t see how that fits in 10K of space, but if so, it actually would be a bigger impact project (similar to a House of Blues or 9:30 Club, I think). Not sure how the community will like it, but if they make it work, my previous post will look pretty silly. (That’s OK, most of my posts look silly in retrospect.)

    Editor’s note: This comment has been edited for URL content.

  8. brent says:

    The county probably is looking for a better deal in terms of less subsidy for them and more bodies attracted to SS per show (and so more people to support the restaurants and shops built with help of previous subsidies). And I’m all for that.

    But the neighboring civic associations, I bet, will fight this tooth and nail. Too much traffic. The “wrong kind of music for the community” (i.e., not the Baby Boomer staples of Birchmere, which will be seen as socially and politically in tune with the neighbors). They will calculate the carbon footprint (including all those extra cars for the extra people).

    The owners will be portrayed as “corporate behemoths who aren’t invested in the community.” Ike Leggett will be attacked for betraying the commitment that they believe he made, in getting elected, to reducing the scope of development, particularly in “grossly overdeveloped” areas such as downtown SS.

    It will be the “megamall” debate all over.

  9. WeCanDoBetter says:

    This is wonderful news! Hopefully the deal with LiveNation can go through. I am glad the deal with the Birchmere fell through. The Birchmere would have catered to a specific group of people that like blue-grass and country music. We need a venue that caters to the ever-growing urban image of downtown Silver Spring. A quick look at the Fillmore music schedule for their theater in San Francisco shows that the Smashing Pumpkins are playing tomorrow night. We need these big acts to come to Silver Spring. Think big, people! I am glad that the folks, whether they were from the county, developer, or both, made the bold move to drop the pursuit of the Birchmere for a more grandiose vision. We need more of those folks making these decisions for downtown Silver Spring. While we are on a roll in backing out of bad deals, can we also back out of the ice-rink deal?

  10. chaz says:

    LiveNation/the Fillmore is the Red Lobster of concert venues. I think it’s bad news.

    WeCanDoBetter, are the Smashing Pumpkins more respresentative of your current, ever-growing urban image for Silver Spring? Also, keep in mind, there’s already a truly world-class music venue a few miles away at the 9:30 Club.

    I’ll say this: if SS can get a music venue that competes with DAR Constitution Hall or the Patriot Center, fantastic. If it competes with 9:30, I don’t even want it to work.

  11. anonymouse says:

    I share Chaz’s feelings about LiveNation. This ridiculous corporatization of DTSS has got to stop. It strips the place of any character and edge, and seems to be on a slippery slope towards becoming a local Orlando or Las Vegas (or for a local example, Baltimore Harbor), rather than any of the other, more interesting revitalizations in this area (U Street/14th Street, Penn Quarter, or even the not-quite-perfect Clarendon/Courthouse stretch). Quite a far cry from any East Village aspirations. Bring in more independant venues, please ! On a similar note, it is equally disheartening to see all these pleas for big-box sporting goods stores and Bed Bath and Beyond in DTSS. Let them stay on Rockville Pike where they belong, PLEASE !!!

  12. thecourtyard says:

    I wouldn’t call Penn Quarter or Clarendon “interesting” in the way you define. The Chinatown/Gallery Place/Penn Quarter area is full up with chains (albeit some high-end ones), and the same goes for Clarendon, though I’ll give you U Street.

    I support the idea of creating an independent music scene in Silver Spring – though the Fillmore idea has a lot of potential. (Keep in mind that no Fillmore-branded clubs currently exist except for the original Fillmore in San Francisco.) We don’t know what they’re going to do.

    I wrote a little about this on Just Up The Pike: check it out if you get the chance.

  13. Nice way to plug your site, Dan. Very subtle.

  14. IHateYuppies says:

    We need an independent music scene in Silver Spring. I am thinking along of the lines of a place that rivals the capacity of the Black Cat. As one poster noted, we don’t need another 9:30 Club in this area. But if a local business guy can bid on some property in DTSS for a music venue that rivals the Black Cat, that would be awesome.

    This music venue would play artists in the rock, folk, punk, electronic dance genres, and hip hop (no violent gangsta rap artists though). Country and Blue Grass has no appeal in this area of Montgomery County. Jazz and R&B has awesome venues all over in the District.

    If you have a music club for the 20-something/30-something crowd…this would be a serious plus for the business in DTSS.

  15. b says:

    Invite Hilly Kristal to bring CBGB’s here. As the Bad Brains are back togeather, we could get them to open. So HR doesn’t have the chops he once had, I’ll still sing along to Banned In DC & The Big Takeover. For you kids who don’t know, they were the group that inspired the Beastie Boys.

  16. David says:

    The Half Moon BBQ had a nice little music scene when it was in existance. Now it looks like we may get a national music hall franchise (LiveNation) to go with our cluster of franchise restaurants across the street. I’m holding out hope that DTSS is big enough to cultivate an independent music scene as well as a big concert venue, just as the independent restaurants are holding their own with the chains in the central business district. Maybe the Fire House brewery will host some events. I know the Quarry House and Mayorga already have an active performance schedule.

    On another note, it would be great to have something a little more edgy on the Thursday/Saturday music schedule in DTSS, rather than week after week of bland blues or generic jazz.

  17. Pennster says:

    Don’t worry, Dan, U Street will be on its way to chains-ville soon enough–just as Dupont Circle has begun to turn that way over the last 5 years or so. It’s cyclical.

  18. thecourtyard says:

    Let’s say U Street does, in fact, become full up with chain stores. That’s likely to push out the two big music clubs there (the 9:30 Club and the Black Cat). Where are the clubs going to go? Or, if they both fold, where does the music go? Silver Spring and whatever ends up in the former J.C. Penney building.

    I’m just saying. I don’t want the U Street clubs to go away, but I like exploring the possibilities. (And I didn’t write about this on Just Up The Pike, just so you know.)

  19. b says:

    Dan,
    I publicly appoligize for attacking you last week. Your current comments are on point and warranted. The elected officials are most likely going to screw us (philips head, as they can get more torque). Call me old fasion, but do you know what would be cool in the old JC Pennys building? JC Pennys.

  20. [...] reported by so many before me, The Birchmere is dead. I was among the many that wanted it to come, mainly because it [...]

  21. chaz says:

    Courtyard said:

    “I support the idea of creating an independent music scene in Silver Spring – though the Fillmore idea has a lot of potential. (Keep in mind that no Fillmore-branded clubs currently exist except for the original Fillmore in San Francisco.) We don’t know what they’re going to do.

    Not exactly true. LiveNation has been buying existing venues (TLA in Philly, Irving Plaza in NY) and “branding” them branches of the Fillmore. I hate to sound like a damn hippie, but it’s another example of a corporations coopting a countercultural symbol (the original Fillmore) and tweaking it to turn a profit. You’re right in that we don’t know what they’re going to do, but what reason have they given that we should trust them?

    The plans are all rumors and hearsay anyway, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now. But I’m much less optimistic about the site than I was when the Birchmere was interested.

  22. Chaz writes:

    “It’s another example of corporations coopting a countercultural symbol (the original Fillmore) and tweaking it to turn a profit.”

    Ditto for CBGBs, the birthplace of punk. That joint closed its East Village digs earlier in the year. Its former owner now plans to open a CBGBs on the Vegas strip. (It may have already opened.)

    Joey Ramone is spinning in his grave as we speak.

    I agree with those who want an independent music scene. (I wouldn’t mind an independent theater scene, either.) It’s time Silver Spring stepped out of Washington DC’s shadow.

  23. b says:

    Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue!

  24. [...] were put on hold so that the county could shop around. In response, the Birchmere’s owners called it quits, he [...]

  25. [...] The usually dapper district 20 Dem was inside downtown’s Panera Bakery Monday night when he was caught in his laundry-day duds. Still, he stopped to chat about the Birchmere deal, or lack thereof. [...]

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