Tags: maxwells | closing | rock | club | hoboken

Maxwell's Closing: Historic NJ Rock Club Casualty of Culture Shift

Tuesday, 04 Jun 2013 01:14 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Maxwell's, the well-known Hoboken, N.J., nightclub that played a significant role in fostering the state's indie-rock scene, will be closing its doors at the end of July when its current lease ends.

The decision to close after nearly 35 years in operation stemmed from a changing demographic in Hoboken, according to Maxwell's co-owner Todd Abramson.

"We were offered a renewal with rates that weren’t necessarily onerous," Abramson told NJ.com. "They were in keeping with the city. But after much thought, given the changing nature of Hoboken and the difficulties of trying to run a business in this town, we decided it was time."

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Having once been known for its thriving arts scene in the 1970s and 1980s, which gave way to "an offbeat and provocative rock scene," NJ.com notes, Hoboken has since become increasingly gentrified over the past two decades.

Today's Hoboken consists primarily of young urban professionals who mostly work in NYC, and well-to-do families from the suburbs. Together, the influx of wealthy individuals and families has effectively pushed out the vast majority of working-class families, who can no longer afford to own or rent in Hoboken. It was under these working class conditions where Hoboken's arts scene once flourished.

With a changing Hoboken, Maxwell’s lost much of its initial clientele.

"The culture in Hoboken is driven by TV now," added Abramson. "A lot of the bars downtown are fighting with each other for who has the most giant TVs. That’s what Hoboken nightlife has become."

Another factor that appeared to signal the demise of the local music landmark was local parking issues that have routinely plagued Hoboken — where some 50,000 people live in a 1 square mile city that seems to have enough parking for only a fraction of its population.

"Parking has always been difficult in this town," says Abramson. "But now, for all intents and purposes, it’s been outlawed. I’ve had bands whose vans have been booted because the signs are so unclear."

Maxwell's, which is named after the former Maxwell House coffee plant that was closed in the early 1990s, is also owned by Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth and Dave Post of Swingadelic.

Despite reported efforts to help keep the nightclub open, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer appears to have accepted Abramson's decision to close Maxwell's.

"When I first heard that Maxwell’s might close, I made it a priority to do everything we could to help them stay open," says Zimmer. "While I’m saddened to see it go, I understand that things change, and Todd and his team did everything they could to make it work."

As for who will give the last performance in the intimate, 200-person venue, which is scheduled for July 31, Abramson says it will likely feature members of the Bongos and Glenn Morrow's bands, which were the first act to play Maxwell’s when it opened in 1978.

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As Edgy NYC Disappears, Does Its Character Go Too?

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