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ISSUE 118 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 11/19/2004

First-Avenue's Re-entry

By Ian Anderson
Executive Editor
and Peter Farrell
Executive Editor

Friday, November 19, 2004

In a courtroom agreement reached on Friday, Nov. 12, building owner Byron Frank, with McClellan and Meyers, purchased the venue for $100,220. This is following former owner Alan Fingerhut's startling claim of bankruptcy, which was news even to the venue's 130 employees.

The fiscal break-up between Fingerhut and Frank last year pushed the situation from skeptical to critical. Fingerhut, who took control of the club in the mid 1990s, had run into significant cash-flow difficulties. Unable to compete with the monolithic Clear Channel and the fickle tastes of music consumers in the midst of economic recession, Fingerhut was simply unable to keep the club financially solvent. Housed in a former bus depot, the club was shut down after years of debate and miscommunication between its principle owners.

From a legal and financial standpoint, the venue was a mess. The various conflicting opinions as to how the club should be operated ended in lawsuits. Many speculated that - in light of the bankruptcy - the establishment would attempt to sell the club to a larger subsidiary.

On the brink of losing what is perhaps Minneapolis most valued entertainment spot, a series of legal actions were taken to ensure the city would not lose what many consider an integral part of Minneapolis rock 'n' roll history. The club, taken for granted by many in the past, suddenly became a topic of intense interest and speculation across the country.

Fortunately for the club, this interest acted as a catalyst and motivated the Minneapolis music-loving masses to arms. The vast interest in preventing its demise brought even Minneapolis Mayor Mark T. Rybak to the club's defense.

"There is something that happens in that room," Rybak said. "At a certain time in the night, it hits a tipping point, like a kind gravity, that makes people do insane things."

First Avenue, not The Ave. (as it was called in the New York Times), was the breeding ground for many of Minneapolis's most creative and innovative artists. The Replacements, Husker Du, Soul Asylum and Prince all attribute much, if not most, of their initial success to the much-lauded musical mecca. The venue acted as the centerpiece of the Minneapolis indie-rock boom of the early 1980s.

The indie-rock kid in all of us can breathe a tremendous sigh of relief. Although it took the near-death of the club to revitalize interest, hopefully those most concerned with its future will support its latest endeavors.

And for the mayor, he will be stage-diving upon the venue's re-opening on Friday at the highly-anticipated Gwar concert, proving his theory that something about the room can motivate anyone, even the mayor, to do insane things. Like attending a Gwar concert.

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