The Exit/In owners are worried about the historic venue’s fate – they say that AJ Capital Partners hasn’t spoken to them since purchasing the property. They also say that the real estate giant’s recent statement promising to save Exit/In didn’t go into depth as to what “preservation” actually meant.
AJ Capital Partners revealed last week that they purchased Exit/In with the intent of preserving the historic venue. However, they didn’t clarify as to what that meant. Exit/In owner Chris Cobb told The Tennessee Star that AJ Capital Partners’ comments about the National Register of Historic Places weren’t comforting, because that government list doesn’t guarantee protection of the building or venue.
“That’s part of what doesn’t make any sense. I think that’s why we’re so concerned,” stated Cobb. “The bigger picture here, the greater concern is this idea of preservation. Preservation for who? [A]nd what exactly does that mean? Because the [National Register of Historic Places] – that can just easily be a plaque on a wall of a luxury hotel.”
In their statement, AJ Capital Partners promised that they wouldn’t turn the venue into a hotel. However, they didn’t lay bare their full intentions.
AJ Capital Partners didn’t respond to questions by press time from The Star concerning their full intentions behind purchasing the property, and why they haven’t communicated with the current owners.
During his interview with The Star, Cobb confirmed that AJ Capital Partners still hasn’t spoken to them. He shared that he didn’t know what their intentions were with the venue until they went to press with their statement last week.
“They’re not talking to us, either. Not since we offered to buy the building from them,” said Cobb. “We had no knowledge of that statement until everybody got it.”
According to Cobb, those who live amongst the creative musician working class should operate Exit/In.
“I don’t like the term ‘save Exit/In,’ cause I don’t think it needs to be saved,” said Cobb. “If what their statement says is true, and their intent is to preserve Exit/In, then that’s great – they should just accept our offer to purchase it for them.”
Metro Nashville City Council Member Jeff Syracuse concurred with Cobb’s assessment of the situation. He told The Star that, for all the money invested, there had to be more in it for the AJ Capital Partners than preserving a historic venue.
Syracuse also offered insight on the proper processes for preserving a local historic property.
“Someone that has something under contract for $6.5 million, I assume, has some other use than what is currently being done,” said Syracuse. “[W]hile the National Register of Historic Places is an important designation, it is more of an honorary designation – it doesn’t have any effect to preserve or protect a historic building. Only a local Metro historic overlay has the authority to do that – I would’ve thought they knew that before they put out a statement like that.”
Syracuse told The Star that he’s concerned that the Cobbs – a local family of small business owners, the caretakers of an iconic place for the creative working class – are being pushed out by a Chicago corporation. AJ Capital Partners was headquartered up north up until last October.
“[T]heir focus, in my opinion, wasn’t to spend $6.5 million to preserve Exit/In. I believe what they want to do is develop the rest of the property,” assessed Syracuse. “They should be very transparent in their intentions. Especially when it has the potential of displacing this family that has been the caretakers of Exit/In and the local musicians in Nashville [for nearly two decades].”
Both men worried about the effect on affordability for songwriters to live in Nashville: a crucial part of Nashville’s music ecosystem, in Syracuse’s words.
Cobb speculated on the impact that the new ownership will have on the creative working class – and what that might portend for Nashville’s success as the global capital in music.
“Who’s Exit/In going to be there for in the next 50 years? The working class?” asked Cobb. “Or is it going to be there for the ultra-wealthy that need a luxury hotel to stay in?”
– – –