A lifeline for the Calvin Theater: NYC operator of music venues to buy theater, hopes to reopen early next year

  • Calvin Theater owner Eric Suher told the License Commission Monday that a New York City music venue operator with more than two dozen theaters throughout the Northeast intends to buy the Calvin Theater. gazette file photo

Published: 10/2/2023 8:36:06 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A New York City music venue operator with more than two dozen theaters throughout the Northeast intends to buy the Calvin Theater downtown and have shows up and running early next year.

Calvin owner Eric Suher told the License Commission Monday afternoon that he has reached a deal to sell the longtime entertainment staple in the heart of Northampton — mostly closed for the last three years — to The Bowery Presents.

Suher made the announcement at the commission’s special meeting Monday, at which members were deciding whether to revoke the all-alcohol liquor licenses attached to the five music venues that the commission had given Suher a deadline of last Friday to sell or reopen or risk losing the alcohol licenses. Suher had reached agreements to transfer the licenses for The Iron Horse, The Green Room and The Basement by the deadline but did not meet that requirement for the Calvin and Pearl Street.

“We’re happy that after many many months, an extended period of review and back and forth, that we have come to an agreement,” Suher told the commission. “We have found an excellent operator for the theater to maintain its existence, hopefully well beyond what we had done in our heyday in terms of booking and bringing people into town.”

A regional partner of global entertainment presenter AEG Live, The Bowery Presents runs more than 25 venues including Terminal 5 and SummerStage in New York City, Royale and Roadrunner in Boston and The Sinclair in Cambridge.

Jim Glancy, a partner at Bowery Presents, was also present at the remote License Commission meeting. He noted that several musical acts that have gone on to international fame, such as LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes and My Morning Jacket, all got their start performing at Bowery venues.

“I think Eric was running in the 60-plus number of concerts a year, I think we would look to increase that,” Glancy said. “We still envision very much a singer-songwriter, all-seated scenario … we envision taking the seats down out down front, letting people dance and move around.”

The news came as a shock even to members of the License Commission, who had not been told beforehand who the new buyer of the Calvin was.

“This far exceeds any expectations I could have had for operators,” said Natasha Yakovlev, the license commission chair. “I’ve been to every one of these venues in Boston and I think this is an incredibly exciting opportunity for downtown Northampton.”

When asked by the commission, Glancy said he envisioned it would take until the beginning of November to get all of the paperwork finalized, including the transfer of Suher’s liquor license, with shows returning sometime between mid-February and mid-March. He also said that having the liquor license was “critical” to the continued success of the theater.

“Having all the paperwork done by Nov. 1 is our goal,” Glancy said. “But what we don’t want to do is get off to a bad start with the city by saying Nov. 1, then on Oct. 25 we call and say we’re going to miss it by a week.”

Although it technically was within the authority of the commission to strip Suher of his license to the Calvin Theater according to the terms of the contract, members agreed to postpone the deadline for that license to Dec. 1 in order to complete the agreement.

“We want to do everything we can to help that transfer happen,” said commission member Helen Kahn. “But it’s been effective to have a deadline when we put it that way in the past.”

Other venues

The commission, however, did cancel the alcohol license attached to the Pearl Street Nightclub. Suher told the commission that he has not found a buyer, although there had been some interest.

Suher sold the other three licenses and business assets for about $250,000, according to Annie Lesko, city’s administration, licensing and economic development coordinator. Of that total, $150,000 came from the sale of Iron Horse Music Hall to local nonprofit venue The Parlor Room, $75,000 came from the sale of The Green Room and $35,000 from the transfer of the liquor license for The Basement to John Piskor, the owner of the Gombo restaurant on Northampton’s Main Street.


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