Questions surround future of Exit/In

Property is under contract to be sold to a developer
Posted at 5:21 PM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 21:38:01-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — While a developer poised to buy an iconic Nashville music venue vows to preserve it, there are still a lot of questions surrounding the future of Exit/In.

Exit/In is under contract to be sold to AJ Capital Partners. The company released a statement Friday that said it intends to preserve the property and never planned a hotel or any other use for the space. The statement went on to say that the company's first action as the owner would be to add 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." The company also offered to refund all donations made to a Go Fund Me account to save the venue.

However, Chris Cobb who has owned the Exit/In for 17 years, still has concerns.

"We don’t need any more folks coming in from out of town and saving Nashville," said Cobb. "Especially these cultural landmarks that have served the city for so long."

For 50 years, Exit/In has been a cornerstone of the city's so-called "Rock Block." Artists ranging from Jimmy Buffett to R.E.M. have performed on stage through the years. 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 raised over $223,000 on Go Fund Me with the intent of buying the property from AJ Capital Partners. Local musicians and city leaders joined the push on social media to save the venue from being sold to the real estate development company. Cobb said he still intends to buy the property.

"It just seems like if what they really want to do is what’s best for Exit/In, then take our money, make a profit, get out of the way, and go back to building beautiful luxury hotels," said Cobb.

Metro Council Member Jeff Syracuse, who has been an advocate for preserving Exit/In, also expressed concerns that AJ Capital Partners could still develop on the property.

"A National Historic Registry doesn’t provide any real protection against demolition or alterations of the building," said Syracuse. "Only a local Metro Historic Overlay would do that."

Syracuse said a Historic Overlay is a zoning change that has to be approved by the Metro Council. At this time, no bill addressing an overlay for Exit/In has been filed.

Syracuse added he believes it is important to protect the inside of the venue, as well and worried a potential corporate partnership would ruin that.

"This is an iconic venue," said Syracuse. "I would like to see it stay in the hands of local ownership, as it is now."

When the property went up for sale in February, Cobb teamed up with the real estate investment firm Grubb Properties to purchase the site, however, the offer was not accepted and the property was sold to AJ Capital instead.

In addition to Exit/In, AJ Capital Partners owns the Graduate Hotel on West End Avenue, and is developing the May Hosiery office building in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood. The company is known for its Graduate Hotels across the country.

When NewsChannel5 reached out to AJ Capital Partners for additional information on plans for the site, the company did not respond.