Due to a combination of factors, including a problematic location, steep rents and mushrooming competition, the Knitting Factory in Hollywood has chosen not to renew its lease and will be going dark by the end of October, confirmed Morgan Margolis, president and CEO of Knitting Factory Entertainment.
“Our business has never really declined,” Margolis told Variety. “We’ve attracted between 8,000-15,000 people a month. It’s just never been a good business model in that location. The lease is very stiff, overhead is difficult with staffing and upper management, and competition in town makes it very difficult to meet our financial needs.”
Margolis cited such West Hollywood venues as the Troubadour, the Key Club, the Whiskey, the Roxy, the Viper Room and the House of Blues, as well as the Mint on Pico Blvd and Spaceland and the Echo further east as competitors in a city that’s “saturated” with intimate pop and rock venues.
Another big challenge for the club was booking three rooms — with capacities ranging from 75 on the low end to 600 on the high end — seven nights a week, with three to seven bands filling the various bills. “You’re competing against the House of Blues, which has a bigger cap,” Margolis says. “Even though our whole club holds 1,000, I can’t put 1,000 in that main room. So I can’t really compete against them on a deal.”
The closing of the Jazz Bakery in Culver City, too, was a sign that Los Angeles is a tough market for the kind of avant garde jazz that gave the original Knitting Factory on Houston St. in downtown Manhattan its rep for adventurous music.
“That’s how we went out the gate,” said Margolis about the Hollywood venue’s original programming. “And the problem was we couldn’t get enough people to come through the doors to cover the band guarantees.”
While the venue has played host to such acts as art rocker P.J. Harvey and jazz mainstay Charlie Haden, the bills have become increasingly obscure to all but the most diehard indie rock fans.
Although the Knitting Factory started out as an anchor tenant and helped transform an area that is virtually unrecognizable from what it was when the club opened in 2000 — when a seedier Hollywood Blvd. was known for kitschy curio shops– the block on which it’s located went from housing such entertainment venues as Tower Records, the Hollywood Entertainment Museum and a multiplex to a largely retail profile, with a fitness club, a grocery store and a shoe store surrounding the club. “I never picked this location, I was handed this location, so I’ve had to do the best I could,” Margolis says.
In addition, events at the adjacent Hollywood and Highland complex, Kodak Theater, and Mann’s Chinese, makes the club often difficult to access.
Margolis acknowledges that property manager CIM Group offered a lower rent, but that it wasn’t enough. He said he’s looking for another L.A. location, and has been in talks with owners of two other venues, but he’s not ready to announce anything yet.
“I’m looking to reopen in L.A.,” he said. “I just haven’t found the right space.”