NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Artists from Billy Joel to R.E.M have performed on the stage, but now the future of an iconic Nashville music venue is up in the air.
The owner of the Exit/In on Elliston Place said the property is now under contract to be sold to Chicago Real Estate Development company AJ Capital Partners. Chris Cobb said he is concerned about what that means for the future of the historic site.
"My biggest concern is Nashville losing a piece of its musical soul," said Cobb. "Our independent music venues are really the soul of our city."
According to the AJ Capital Partners website, the company is "focused on developing and operating transformative real estate assets in spaces often overlooked or undervalued by traditional investment firms." No one from the company responded to NewsChannel5's request for comment on plans for the future of Exit/In.
When the property went up for sale in February, Exit/In teamed up with the real estate investment firm Grubb Properties to purchase the site; however, the offer was not accepted.
Exit/In is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It opened in 1971 and has been an anchor of Nashville's rock scene and so-called "Rock Block." The venue has been closed since March of 2020 due to the pandemic, but Cobb said he hoped to be able to reopen in June.
Cobb decided to start a Go Fund Me with the goal of raising enough money to offer AJ Capital Partners more than it paid for the property, and buy the building.
"We can't continue to see places like this get redeveloped into something else," said Cobb. "We are going to have to come together and collaborate to protect the things we care about."
The outpouring of support was immediate. More than 1,700 people donated in three days.
Various musicians have posted on social media encouraging people to donate to save the venue. Nashville Mayor John Cooper also posted on Instagram Monday "We urge the current owner and any future owner to work with the founders of Exit/In to protect this landmark music venue so it survives and thrives for another 50 years."
Historic Nashville, Inc. included the Elliston Place Rock Block and Exit/In on its "Nashville Nine" list of most endangered sites in 2019.
"Historic Nashville will do anything to save a building that has historic value," said Trey Bruce, a Nashville songwriter, and Vice President of Historic Nashville, Inc. "That building has so many assets, just by itself, not including the rest of the block."
Cobb hoped with enough community support Exit/In can keep on rocking for another 50 years.
"Exit/In has been through a lot through the years, and I know it can survive this, as well."
Cobb said if the bid fails, all money raised will be donated to organizations like the National Independent Venue Association and the Music Venue Alliance of Nashville.