This is the worst news a dude living in Columbus OH who likes indepedent music can get. Here’s an e-mail from Dan Dougan, owner of Little Brother’s..
To friends, family, fans, musicians and community,
There are rumors flying that Little Brother’s is being “taken over” or replaced by new ownership, so I thought it was important to clarify our current situation.
Just as we are hitting Little Brother’s ten-year anniversary in the Short North this May, I have apparently reached an impasse with the landlord of the building, who has informed me, through his lawyers, that the only new lease he will offer me includes, among other stipulations, an immediate increase in rent of over 40 percent, and annual increases. It has been clearly implied that someone else has offered this amount for the space and that I could be asked to vacate the premises before summer begins.
This came as a surprise, because I had negotiated terms face-to-face with my landlord earlier this year and we verbally agreed upon incremental increases over the next five years that would have been difficult, but not impossible, for us to accommodate over that time. He promised to send the new terms of the lease in writing. Soon after, he stopped responding to my calls and recently began communicating with me only via his attorney.
While business has been good this year, this increase is more than I can afford. The entertainment business goes through so many highs and lows, an agreement of this nature could crush us the next time we hit a slow period. Clearly, if I am asked to leave by summertime, that gives me little time to relocate the club, which is not something I am sure I can endure again anyway.
Ten years ago, when Stache’s building was torn down, I was invited by the previous management company of 1100 N. High St. to move into the neighborhood between campus and the Short North, which, at the time, was a much more barren place. They wanted an anchor business to attract more people and businesses to the area, and gave me reasonable rent so that I could develop that business.
Still, moving cost more than I could have imagined – there was a battle when I had to have the building rezoned, and that, combined with designing and building the stage, the bathrooms, the bar, the cooler, the sound stage, was extremely costly. In the first two or three years, we struggled month to month and I was often uncertain that we would survive.
Just as we finally stabilized, the current landlord came along and bought the building, offering far more for it than I could afford. Negotiating with him proved challenging. We have endured one difficult rent increase after another, while responsibly maintaining the inside of the building. We have had some good years and bad ones, but ultimately persevered through many tight times. The added financial burden made it difficult for me to make the business the one I had imagined.
Over time, it became clear that this man did not understand the nature of our business, or the important role it has played in bringing a diverse range of music to Columbus and supporting the local music scene. Often, I was told, that a restaurant, or the building re-carved into some kind of mini-mall would make better tenants, in spite of the fact that he has had a difficult time keeping any retail tenants in the storefronts to our north, outside of the Plasma Center. We may have struggled, but overall, we have been good, reliable tenants.
I can’t claim responsibility for the way the neighborhood has transformed into the little bohemia it has become over the past decade, but I do think that our presence contributed, and made it a much more attractive option for several of the businesses that relocated from South Campus, as well as new ones.
Last year, I was approached by a couple of young men from out of state who wanted to buy my business and continue the legacy of Stache and Little Brother’s. After nearly 20 years of this up and down business, I was ready to pass the torch, remain as an advisor to the business and try something new. We reached preliminary terms, but it came to a halt when they were unable to come to any agreement with the landlord.
So that brings us to today. The landlord has refused to sit down face-to-face and work out a compromise. Because his terms are unacceptable, I believe that it is just a matter of time before Little Brother’s is asked to leave the premises.
I have a liquor license, some gear, the good name of one of the last remaining long-standing, independent live music nightclubs in the country and some expertise I can hopefully sell. But at this time, the cost of moving and starting over is just too much. The lifestyle of a music promoter is like professional gambling. When I was younger and still “at the party,” it was all well and good. But my wife, and our son, who is turning two in May, deserve a more stable lifestyle. I also have health issues that the added stress will not help.
For our tenth anniversary and perhaps Dan’s retirement, we’re asking for your stories about Little Brother’s (and Stache’s, for you old-timers). Write up something about your memories, your favorite show, what the clubs have meant to you, or whatever strikes you and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
If this is the end, I need to thank my immediate staff, some of whom have been with me for many, many years, for their efforts and support. There will be time for the numerous personal thank yous that I need to say later. For now, let me begin to express my gratitude to all of the players, payers, workers and wonks who have kept me in this game for almost 20 years – not much time to a mountain, but nearly half of my life.
Take care of your little brothers and sisters.