Obviously Music City has been experiencing some unprecedented growth these past few years. With more people than ever moving to Nashville, and more tourists than ever coming to visit the city, the landscape of Nashville has changed dramatically from just a year or two ago.
High-rise hotels and condos are popping up on every corner, local honky-tonks are being replaced by corporate-owned bars, and historical buildings and venues are being pushed out to make room for all of this “growth.”
Last year, it was feared the Exit/In would be the next victim in a long line of historic venues to meet their end in a name of “progress” after it was announced that the building would be sold to AJ Capital Partners, a real estate development firm founded by Ben Weprin and known for their chain of Graduate Hotels.
The owner of Exit/In at the time, Chris Cobb, launched a GoFundMe to attempt to buy the venue from AJ Capital Partners, but was ultimately unsuccessful in his bid and announced last month that the historic venue would be closing after 51 years.
The news that Exit/In would be closing brought out strong feelings from the Nashville community, who were frustrated at losing yet another historic local music venue, as well as the artists whose career path had included stops at Exit/In.
But it sounds like the doors will be reopening soon and live music will once again return to the historic Exit/In – and the talent booking will be staying in-house.
In an article posted by Billboard yesterday, AJ Capital Partners revealed that Exit/In would be receiving some renovations once they take over on January 1, including an updated green room and renovations to the restrooms. The new owners then plan to reopen the venue as early as the spring, and that the talent booking will be handled by their in-house team led by Dan Merker, as opposed to being outsourced to a large promoter like Live Nation (which is great news because ALL THE HOMIES HATE TICKETMASTER).
In a statement to Billboard, Merker said that they hope to continue the legacy of the historic Exit/In by bringing in a wide variety of artists across all genres:
“We are honored to carry on the legacy of this iconic venue and raise the bar for both the fan and artist experience.
We look forward to announcing the 2023 shows soon and as the calendar will reflect, restoring Exit/In as a welcoming place for artists that span all genres and everyone within our community.”
While they may be best known for their chain of hotels, AJ Capital Partners actually has quite a few music venues in their portfolio. The firm also owns Minglewood Hall in Memphis, the Joy Theater in New Orleans, The Senate in Columbia, SC, the White Oak Music Hall in Houston, and Iron City in Birmingham.
And as someone who’s been to quite a few shows at Iron City, that gives me hope that Exit/In is going to continue to be a premier local music venue in Nashville. Iron City brings in some top-tier acts (I saw Luke Combs play there back in 2017 before he blew up, and they bring in some great names that span all genres).
Exit/In won’t be AJ’s only music space in Nashville either. They’re also working on plans to open a 4,500 seat music venue in Nashville’s Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood. And AJ Capital Partners is also working to open Chief’s, a 6-story bar, restaurant and music venue with Eric Church on Broadway in downtown Nashville.
The firm also filed to designate Exit/In as a historical landmark in 2021, ensuring the property would be protected with historic overlays.
Cobb, the current owner of Exit/In, released a statement in response to the Billboard article reporting on the future of Exit/In:
“Through thoughtful, intentional programming, and a commitment to the communities they exist to serve, small independent stages create and incubate music, art, and those who make it. These creatives are the foundation of the music industry, launch from these stages to be superstars and soundtrack our lives, and ultimately shape our culture.
Its concerning to see this mom and pop-esque, 51 year old, local microbusiness forcefully overtaken by a global real estate developer that began acquiring venues at their most vulnerable, at the height of covid disruption, has no proven track record in the field, and has exited the long-term team that thousands of times over proved its commitment to community, music, and art.
AJCP should publicly commit to hosting diverse local bands and artists, community events, and non-profit fundraisers, equitably, as the venue has done over the past 18 years. This is the commitment Nashville’s communities and creatives deserve and how venues should serve.”
Over the years, the iconic Exit/In has hosted performances from legends like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, to Billy Joel, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jimmy Buffett, Tyler Childers, Post Malone, and more recently, Miranda Lambert.
It’s an integral part to the Nashville music scene, and one that deserved to be protected and preserved as a venue for live music.
So it’s great news that it sounds like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.