Todd Snider has reclaimed control of Aimless Records from himself and moves forward with April 23 release of First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder. Photo by Chuck Allen

East Side Buzz, April 16

If you, like me, wake up and think, “I am going to do my damndest to not put on pants today,” it’s possible you haven’t yet picked up and read the March/April issue of The East Nashvillian. But guess what! You can read it without pants! A page-by-page digital version is available here. If you prefer the smell of freshly printed paper, you can also have a copy of the latest issue sent straight to your mailbox. Support local media! Sorry for the exclamation points! I probably shouldn’t have had that third cold brew!

And speaking of the print edition, there is still time to advertise in the May/June edition! Email us at sales@theeastnashvillian.com for rates and information.

The East Nashvillian, Issue 11.2, March/April 2021

Exit/In vs. AJ Capital: An Update

Last Friday afternoon, mere hours after the week’s “East Side Buzz” had been published, AJ Capital, the real estate firm that recently put in a bid to purchase the land on which Exit/In sits, finally made a public statement. (It’s like they didn’t want to give local media time to report on the news before the weekend or something!)

AJ Capital’s founder and CEO, Ben Weprin, said the firm — which has developed a number of hotels around town including The Graduate and Thompson Nashville — never had plans to turn Exit/In or its lot into a hotel.

“Our goal and company mission statement is to conserve and preserve while maintaining the health and vibrancy of the communities we invest in,” writes Weprin in a statement that was first shared by Tennessee Lookout reporter Nate Rau. “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.” 

Weprin went on to say that AJ plans to add the club to the National Register of Historic Places, “so that nobody can ever alter or change the space.” He also offered to refund anyone who donated to Exit/In owner Chris Cobb’s “Preserve Exit/In” GoFundMe fundraiser. (Cobb and his wife Telisha operate and own the rights to the business, but do not own the building or the property.)

Many folks initially reacted positively to the news, thinking perhaps AJ Capital was going to let the Cobbs continue to run the club, as they have since 2004. But the couple immediately clarified with a statement of their own:

“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.”

Chris tells The East Nashvillian that as of Thursday afternoon, they still haven’t heard anything from AJ Capital or Weprin despite multiple attempts and even making an offer on the property three weeks ago.

“My take: It was a slick move with the intent of crushing our momentum and buying goodwill locally. I don’t think it’s working,” Chris says about Weprin’s statement.

Chris says he’s still going forward with the fundraiser, which, as of Thursday afternoon, has raised more than $223,000. He also points out that Exit/In isn’t the only venue AJ Capital has its eye on. On April 13, Billboard reported AJ Capital “is also in talks to buy the Roseland Theater in Portland, Oregon.”

“This deal has not closed,” says Chris. “That said, it’s my understanding [AJ Capital] intend to acquire many independent venues across the country and operate them as one entity. This, of course, means they cease to be independent. Without the ability to operate in an independent manner, that centers Nashville’s creative working class — the true culture bearers of Music City — I fear we lose everything that’s integral to the Exit/In so many of us know and love.”

AJ Capital did not respond to our questions sent via multiple emails.

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Speaking of Music Venues

The Small Business Association’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application portal shut down Tuesday, the same day it opened to the public. The SBA said the site was experiencing “technical issues.” Once it’s up and running, the SVOG program plans to administer more than $16 billion to applicable venues and employees in the arts and entertainment industry. Everyone from theater producers to show promoters and talent reps are eligible. 

As of Thursday afternoon, the SBA didn’t have a date for when SVOG applications would be open — the website currently states, “SBA is still working to determine an exact reopening date for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application portal. As soon as it is confirmed, we will provide advance notice.”

Read more about Shuttered Venue Operators Grant eligibility and the application process at the SBA’s website.

Oracle Has Big Plans for East Bank

On Wednesday Mayor John Cooper announced he and the Oracle Corporation are hoping to finalize a $1.2 billion development deal for Nashville’s East Bank. The proposal would bring 8,500 new jobs to Nashville, with an average salary of $110,000.

The deal still needs to be approved by the Industrial Development Board and the Metro Council.

“Oracle will bring a record number of high-paying jobs to Nashville and they will pay upfront all the city’s infrastructure costs,” says Cooper via press release. “This is a huge win for our city. In an unprecedented deal structure for Nashville, no new debt is being issued and there is no burden on our taxpayers. Oracle’s presence will transform the East Bank, and I’m equally excited about the ways Oracle can transform education and career pipelines in Nashville.”

District 6 Council Member Brett Withers says he, too, is “excited” by the news

“For many decades East Nashville had largely been a bedroom community and most residents had to leave East Nashville to commute to jobs elsewhere,” Withers tells The East Nashvillian. “That has been changing over the last few years with more shared or creative office buildings opening in East Nashville. But this project will bring more than 8,000 jobs right into our overall neighborhood. That is a huge influx of opportunity for people to live complete lives in East Nashville without having to cross the river.

“The public infrastructure component of this project is going to be transformational for the East Nashville region,” he adds. “A pedestrian bridge across the Cumberland will connect Germantown to this campus and open up the riverfront to the public. Another bridge is planned from this campus over to Grace Street. The latter connection will greatly accelerate the revitalization of the Dickerson Road corridor. And the fact that Oracle would be paying for public infrastructure upgrades upfront means that Metro Government can continue to focus on other infrastructure projects throughout the city.”

Withers says he hopes the Industrial Development Board will approve the proposal and anticipates “that it will easily pass at Metro Council.”

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Dine Out for Life This Tuesday

On Tuesday, April 20, dozens of local restaurants will participate in Dining Out for Life, a benefit for Nashville CARES. For 25 years Nashville CARES has been fighting the HIV epidemic by offering support and resources to Middle Tennesseans living with or at-risk of HIV, offering both prevention and education as well as confidential HIV and HCV testing.

“We also provide essential services to those living with HIV including nutrition, transportation, housing, and utility assistance,” says Debbie Barnett, the Director of Marking and Communications at Nashville CARES. “And, one amazing thing that happened during a pandemic, we opened a health clinic!”

The My House Clinic is located in Nashville CARES Metroplex building and, Barnett says, it’s “currently the only facility in Middle Tennessee that provides same-day treatment for those testing positive for HIV.”

“Studies show that 96 percent of those newly diagnosed with HIV who get into treatment within 24 hours become virally suppressed within two months, significantly reducing the rate of HIV transmission” she adds.

Nashville CARES had to cancel last year’s fundraiser — “out of respect and compassion for what the restaurants in our community were facing,” says Barnett — and this year they’ve temporarily rebranded the event as Dining In for Life, with several options for takeout and curbside pickup to accommodate social distancing. 

Barnett says they’re hoping the day benefits participating restaurants as much as it does Nashville CARES. 

“As 2021 came around, we knew we would need to shift our focus from Dining Out For Life being solely a charity event to using this as an opportunity to provide all of our marketing resources, staff, board and volunteers to help drive more business into our local restaurants,” Barnett tells The East Nashvillian. “We got a very enthusiastic response from restaurants who were excited to participate. We even have some donating as much as 100, 75 and 50 percent of sales on April 20! We gave restaurants the freedom to determine their own donation amount based on what they were comfortable doing.”

East Nashville participants include East Nashville Beer Works (where our publisher, Lisa McCauley, will co-host), Five Points Pizza, Frothy Monkey, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Lyra, The Mainstay Restaurant, and Vui’s Kitchen. Mmmm, tofu banh mi.

And you can get a headstart this weekend, too — Barnett says some restaurants that weren’t open on Tuesdays still wanted to help, so Lipstick Lounge is donating 50 percent of their Saturday sales to Nashville CARES and Lou and The Mockingbird are both donating 25 percent of their Sunday sales. 

To see the full schedule and detailed list of eateries visit diningoutforlife.com/nashville.

If you’d like to make a further donation to Dining Out for Life, text DOFL2021 to 44-321 or visit diningoutforlife.com.

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Quick Bits

Love Buzz

Last year, just as COVID-19 was first creeping into our lives, local songwriter and feelings haver Soccer Mommy (aka Sophia Regina Allison) released Color Theory, a critically acclaimed album that (rightfully) ended up on no fewer than 10 mainstream music magazine’s top 10 lists. 

Color Theory is a remarkable collection of tender pop songs wherein Allison vividly recalls her own personal experiences with depression, physical illness, and loss. Surely she didn’t intend for Color Theory to be the perfect soundtrack for a springtime pandemic, but here we are.

This week, more than a year after Color Theory’s February release date, Allison finally announced a few Soccer Mommy tour dates, including a set at Nashville’s OUTLOUD Music Festival in June. Do you know how long I have been waiting to hear these songs live? Like, 412 days! This is very exciting to me, a person who very much enjoys having feelings about songs about feelings in a live setting!

The whole album is fantastic, but “Circle the Drain” is currently a favorite so here, hear. Tickets to OUTLOUD are on sale now