The Blockley Is Closing [UPDATED]

One less music venue for Philadelphia.

Since its debut in 2009, West Philadelphia music venue The Blockley has hosted the likes of Talib Kweli, Ghostface Killah, Marco Benevento and the Mickey Hart Band, as well as many performances featuring popular Grateful Dead tribute act Splintered Sunlight. But soon those acts will have to find another stage to play in Philadelphia, because the Blockley is closing at the end of December, confirms the club’s management.

The last performances at the Blockley are currently scheduled to be Splintered Sunlight on December 27th and local band Long Miles on December 28th, but I am told that a plan for a big farewell concert is in the works. Most of the staff found out about the closing on Wednesday and Thursday.

With the Blockley closing, several shows that were already booked for the first quarter of 2014, including NRBQ and Rebirth Brass Band, will have to be moved or altogether canceled. Check the Blockley’s website for forthcoming information about those shows and for information on ticket refunds.

The Blockley’s address at 3801 Chestnut Street has a long history of concert production. From 1978 through 1995, the venue was known as the Chestnut Cabaret and presented shows such as Nirvana, the Hooters, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Ramones. After that venue closed, 3801 Chestnut housed a nightclub called Pegasus Showcase, which saw appearances by Jay-Z, Foxy Brown and DMX.

There’s no official word on what is planned for the location, but a source inside the Blockley told me they don’t expect that plan to include live music.

UPDATE 12/12 10:15 p.m.: After this article was posted on Thursday night, The Blockley posted the following message to its Facebook page, shedding some light on the situation.

It is with tremendous sadness that we inform you- The Blockley will be closing its doors after 2013.

In short- we lost our liquor license, without much notice. We’ve been negotiating it, but at this point we’re forced to move the license out of the building at year’s end. The news has blindsided our staff & family here, and it derails an experience and a community that we have been so very excited to see grow and flourish here.

In a little more than 4 years, we have seen everything there is to see. Nobody on our end could have possibly expected the sort of journey that we’ve been on; it’s not been easy for one minute, but the level of talent that has hit our stage has surpassed even the wildest expectations. The disappointment that today brings, is immense. There is no small group of people out and about, Philly & beyond, who feel a real sense of connection to The Blockley; that is what has made us who we are. There have been some really special events and moments here, in a short time- and it feels like we’re losing someone too early. It’s been REALLY fun. Individually, all of us who have built this venue from the ground up will continue to work to make a mark on the Philly music scene in a variety of ways. We sincerely thank so many of you, who have been a part of our club. It’s been an unbelievable experience, and we hope this is just the beginning.

On behalf of Chris, Ned, Nick, Jedd, Tom, Jesse, Julian, Maddy, John, Onna, Gerry, Patrick, Holly, Pat, Dan & so many more- we thank you.

On November 6th, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board had told me that the Blockley’s liquor license was inactive “pending a non-renewal case from 2012.” According to state records, that case stems from multiple incidents allegedly involving underage drinkers.

A Blockley manager offers further explanation on WXPN blog The Key:

The Blockley’s ownership group was working toward completing a sale of the business. That, for me and our humble staff that make the venue go, represented an amazing opportunity to move forward with more resources, staff, and momentum than ever, and take things to a new level. The rug got pulled out on Wednesday. In the process of negotiating a sale agreement, the necessary transfer of our liquor license to a new owner was blocked, irreversibly. We have been negotiating it, but we’re forced to move the license out of the building. We have explored absolutely every option available to try and salvage the situation, and can safely say it’s out of our hands. Without a liquor license, we can’t sell the business- so suddenly, the future fell apart. I can’t begin to express the disappointment on my end.

A PLCB spokesperson explains:

“The licensee did not ‘lose’ their license,” she insists in an email. “The [PLCB] board voted to HOLD the decision on the non-renewal matter to negotiate a conditional licensing agreement. The proposed agreement and renewal is tentatively scheduled to present to the board on December 18th.”