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NYC fashion boutique opens in former CBGB space

Published April 20, 2008 12:00 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

NEW YORK - Punk is dead - how about a $1,600 leather jacket instead?

The walls are still black and some aging graffiti remains, but the once-dank Bowery home of defunct rock club CBGB has gone upscale.

Fashion designer John Varvatos' menswear boutique opened earlier this month in the same spot where bands like the Ramones and Blondie helped spark a punk rebellion. The store echoes its past, but with a price tag to mirror the times.

Fliers from the 1970s are preserved behind glass on one wall, and the stage has been replaced by a tailoring shop encased with gold Alice Cooper records.

''I wanted to combine music, fashion, memorabilia and really make it like a cultural space,'' Varvatos told The New York Post.

But the infamously rank bathrooms of the dank club are gone, and the floor where frenzied crowds moshed to bands like Television and Talking Heads is now lined with clothing racks. Some knit T-shirts retail for $130 each.

Varvatos, a designer who has worked for Converse and Calvin Klein, is said to be an avid fan of bands such as Led Zeppelin and The New York Dolls.

He promised emerging artists will be welcomed there and said he will host a fundraiser for young musicians next month.

Robert Hollander, an East Village resident and activist, said the transformation of CBGB into an upscale boutique is a symptom of pervasive commercialism in what was once a gritty, browbeaten neighborhood.

''It's kind of ironic because they've made this gesture to preserve a little bit of history, but the reason CBGB is gone is because places like this have opened up in the neighborhood,'' Hollander recently told the weekday tabloid amNew York.

CBGB closed in October 2006 after the owner, Hilly Kristal, lost a rent fight against the building's landlord. Kristal died in August.

His son, Dana Kristal, told amNew York that he appreciated Varvatos' attempt to preserve the CBGB legacy, but said most of the original club had been gutted.

''Maybe he thinks it's neat and he cares,'' Kristal said.

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