With its future already unclear due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Nashville’s famed rock venue the Exit/In is now up for sale.
In its 50th year of operation, Exit/In has served as a popular concert destination for Music City, hosting national touring acts including Talking Heads, R.E.M., and Lucinda Williams, as well as homegrown artists from the city’s country, rock, and Americana scenes — Luke Combs played their early in his career. Situated on Nashville’s “Rock Block” amid other venues and restaurants, the Exit/In has been embattled as developers buy and build in the surrounding areas of midtown Nashville. As reported by Tennessee Lookout on Saturday, the club’s potential sale also includes the adjacent bar Hurry Back, both of which are owned and operated by Chris Cobb. (Cobb does not own the building that houses Exit/In.)
Cobb and his wife Telisha have engaged the development company Grubb Properties in an arrangement that would allow them to purchase the property outright from its current owners through a “Live Venue Recovery Fund.” The Grubb Properties website notes that the fund aims to help venue operators “establish long-term ownership” and thus ensure a more diverse, healthy music scene wherever they are located.
Though this potential sale is not directly pandemic-related, the Exit/In and Cobb have been at the forefront of the Covid-era movement to aid and rescue small, independent music venues forced into closing. He helped form the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and pushed for the Save Our Stages Act. His collective’s efforts also persuaded Nashville’s Metro Government to reserve some of its CARES Act funds to help venues cover their expenses.
“This one hurt. Legendary spot about to be a damn smoothie king before we blink,” he wrote on Instagram. “I’ve never claimed to have the answers. Honestly I get really pissed when people are self righteous in their convictions of how it should be (whether locked down or back open). Whichever way you feel, there’s an adverse effect and we are ALL navigating this for the first time.”
The potential sale of the Exit/In also mirrors other conflicts over development in Nashville. In 2015, RCA Studio A was sold to a developer who planned to demolish the building and build condominiums. Instead, it was saved by Aubrey Preston and through a campaign led by Ben Folds. Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb now operates the studio and has recorded albums there by Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell.