924 Gilman landlord speaks

2 Jun

by Jessica Boudevin

Venues Today is keeping tabs on the situation at 924 Gilman in Berkely, Calif. After yesterday’s story about how the punk club was in danger of losing its lease after its rent went up $2,7000, we received an email from  landlord Jim Widess explaining his side of the story.

Widess owns both the building at 924 Gilman and The Caning Shop next door. He admits that the economy has been particularly hard on The Caning Shop, which has been in operation for 42 years, and that the rent increase is a sort of compromise to avoid selling the buildings. Widess insists that he has “been supportive of 924 Gilman since it’s inception,” and though he considered selling the building on the advice of realtors, maintained his viewpoint that, ” that was not an option for us.  The club is too important – and the chances are slim that they could really open anywhere else.”

He “looks forward to better times” for both his shop and the club; considering the compromise on rent the only option that would allow his properties to function. As far as opinions that Berkeley is ready to forget 924 Gilman altogether, Widess attests that “the neighborhood has always been supportive of the club and what it brings to Berkeley as a resource.” He brings up the fact that nearly everything on the street besides 924 Gilman, The Caning Shop, and The Pyramid Brewing Company are closed; and other businesses near there close by 10 o’clock at night—long before the punks are ready to call it a night. “So as long as the members are considerate of the neighbors when going home, there is really no conflict at all.”

He insists that “there is only one side of the issue:  How to keep 924 Gilman and The Caning Shop both prospering and growing in these difficult times.  We really want a win-win for both of our concerns and with the excellent leadership of the club, it’s happening!”

We hope that he’s right and that both 924 Gilman, and the other businesses on Gilman street, will thrive soon!


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