Beloved Nashville Venue Exit/In Will Not Close, Developers Say
A beloved Nashville music venue has been spared from what its owners feared was possible extinction after a very public effort to save the historic site. The developers who bought the property that houses the Exit/In have revealed that they intend for the venue to remain intact — and, in fact, they say they never meant to do anything else.
Exit/In owners Telisha and Chris Cobb launched a GoFundMe campaign in April after the property on Nashville's Elliston Place where the Exit/In has resided since 1971 was sold to a developer, AJ Capital Partners. The venue is a longtime keystone of what's known as "the Rock Block" in Nashville's Midtown area and one of the most beloved independent music venues in Music City.
The Cobbs were hoping to raise $200,000 to make an offer to buy the venue back from the developers. They ended up exceeding that goal and raising more than $222,000 to date, with Nashville music business insiders including Oh Boy Records, Seth England, Thirty Tigers, John Osborne, Margo Price, the Cadillac Three and Jeffrey Steele all among the supporters who chipped in.
Chris Cobb thanked everyone who'd donated in a note added to the fundraiser when it reached its goal on Thursday (April 8), writing that they would proceed with a formalized offer "shortly."
In a statement on Friday (April 9), Adventurous Journeys founder Ben Weprin says it was never the company's intent to develop the venue space into anything else, and that he had been prevented from saying so in public by confidentiality issues. He's encouraging everyone who donated to seek a refund. WSMV News 4 Nashville carried the statement, which reads as follows:
Confidentiality was waived this afternoon, so we are now able to speak to the community about our plan for preserving Nashville’s beloved EXIT/IN, which was always our intent for the iconic music venue (the intent was never a hotel or any other use for the space). Our goal and company mission statement is to conserve and preserve while maintaining the health and vibrancy of the communities we invest in. The EXIT/IN is no exception. In fact, the artist community was first to put the need for iconic venue preservation and assistance on our radar. Those conversations are also driving our first action as owners: to add the EXIT/IN to the National Register of Historic Places, so that nobody can ever alter or change the space, as it belongs to Music City. We realize that the delay in our ability to respond has led to dollars spent by hardworking folks, and that’s why we’d like to refund all donations made on behalf of the EXIT/IN, so donors can redirect that money toward other worthy causes. Donors are invited to send a copy of their original donation receipt to the Preserve EXIT/IN GoFundMe to EXITINPreserved@ajcpt.com. As incoming stewards, we thank you for your passion and commitment to this great city. We look forward to seeing the return of live music to its stage.
Telisha and Chris Cobb responded to the news with a statement of their own, emphasizing that they still intend to make an offer and urging AJ Capital Partners to accept their terms:
We’re thrilled Ben agrees Exit/In must be preserved. We’ve reached out previously to no avail, but hope he’s now ready to accept our offer to purchase the building and make a profit from selling it to us. A legendary place like this – and what makes it beloved by passionate people on both sides of the stage -- is our people. Exit/In has been our family’s home for 17 years and we can tell you the magic of the Exit/In cannot be bought or sold in a real estate transaction. It’s created by the people. Learning to own and operate a small independent venue is a monumental undertaking, especially for a company best known for building luxury developments. We invite Ben to accept our offer so Exit/In can continue to nurture Nashville creative working class and not become another playground for the elite. The offer to reimburse donors to our campaign is interesting, but we know Nashville’s music community can’t be bought. We’re also glad Ben wants to see live music on Exit/In’s stage. We’re not aware that he has seen a show here, but welcome him in to experience the magic of the place... We’re more committed than ever to protecting Nashville’s creative working class - it’s who we are!
The Cobbs say they made an offer when the building originally went up for sale in February, but the people who owned the property accepted a competing offer from AJ Capital Partners due to previous bad blood.
"We offered asking price, but the current owners chose to accept another bid," Chris Cobb tells the Tennessean. "We’re told the money was the same, and their decision was based on a grudge held over the Save the Rock Block campaign, which successfully prevented a budget hotel development."
The quest to save the Exit/In attracted significant media attention and support from some influential Nashville residents. Metro Council members Brandon Taylor, Brett Withers, Jeff Syracuse, Joy Styles and Tom Cash were all on hand at a rally the Cobbs held at the Exit/In on Wednesday (April 7) to bring attention to their cause, as Nashville's NewsChannel 5 reports.
The venue has been closed since March of 2020 due to the pandemic lockdown, but the Cobbs hope to have it re-opened by June.
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