Even in the plushest of times, running a live music venue is a financially perilous venture. No one knows this better than Rick Eberle, a longtime veteran of the Long Island Music scene and spokesman/publicist for Loaded Rock Shows, the promoter for a number of clubs, including The Crazy Donkey, which announced its closing a week before The Paramount’s soft opening. And while it would be easy to say that the impending arrival of a Huntington-based rival hastened the demise of its smaller Farmingdale counterpart, Eberle claims that just wasn’t the case.
“[The opening of The Paramount] had zero effect,” he insists. “We were actually upbeat about it opening and we never looked at it as any sort of competition. Rather, it’s something that was sorely missed in this area.
“They have 1,600-capacity,” he continues. “Anything they were going to do really wasn’t going to affect us since our capacity is half that. We still had a relationship with Live Nation where they told us not to worry and that they were still going to give us the same shows.”
The crux of the Crazy Donkey’s financial woes, he says, came down to never having access to enough shows to warrant being open 30 days a month without having another business, whether a catering business like Mulcahy’s, or the specialty dance nights that kept the Donkey floating until attendance at those started to dissipate. Add to it a vicious cycle the club was unable to escape.
“In my 10 years of doing this, whether it was The Downtown or the Donkey, it’s always been that out of seven days in a week, how many good shows are there?” Eberle recalls. “The summer was especially a challenge when there aren’t as many artists coming around to our area to play a room our size because the bigger artists are taking a lot of money out of people’s pockets. If fans are going to see a big act like Maroon 5, they might be able to afford to also see Candlebox. And in the winter, it’s the opposite problem. There isn’t enough shows, period, but people do have the expendable income. It’s just that a lot of artists don’t like to tour in the winter.”
As to whether he thinks The Paramount might face similar hurdles, Eberle is more optimistic.
“The key to any business is having capital,” he explains. “So if you have capital and you’re willing to weather the storm from the first six months up to maybe the first two years, where you’re not looking to turn a profit, you should be okay. Everyone wants to immediately turn a profit, and let’s be honest, it’s going to be a high ticket price and it’s an unproven room, but there is a sexiness about it.”
For veteran music industry analyst Bob Grossweiner, the opening of The Paramount promises great things.
“It’s [opening] in virgin territory where high-profile talent is going to be playing,” he says. “The economy and ticket prices could be hurdles, but if a person is coming from Nassau and Suffolk [into Manhattan], they have to deal with New York City traffic and whatnot. So if this room turns out to be good, which by all means it looks like it could be, this could be a major attraction.”
Grossweiner has his doubts about the weakened economy posing a major problem for this club with the positives outweighing the negatives.
“This is a big boost for Long Island, especially Suffolk County,” he adds. “And strange as it may seem, historically, as of about eight or 10 years ago, when you had a recession, people still went to concerts more so than they did other things. Now maybe they don’t go away as much, so they have money to go see shows.”
The major bugaboo he sees is the one thing that keeps coming up—where concertgoers are going to put their vehicles upon arriving at the theater.
“Parking is something that’s going to be annoying and if the consumer can’t find adequate parking, they’re not going to want to come back unless they have lots out there,” he says.
Regarding The Paramount’s proposed free shuttle ferrying patrons between the Huntington LIRR parking lot and the venue, the veteran music journalist remains skeptical.
“Parking a mile and a half away and having a shuttle bus is not going to work,” he says, bluntly. “If I park my car at 10 to 8, and then have to wait until they have enough people to fill up a bus, then that’s not going to be a good situation. So they have a parking problem that they have to face and they can only figure it out once it starts.”
While he’s equally optimistic about The Paramount planting roots in the town of Huntington, Dylan Skolnick agrees that parking is going to be a problem. As the co-director of the Cinema Arts Centre (CAC), a Huntington arts institution, Skolnick is all too well familiar with the dearth of this resource in the downtown area.
“I think it’ll be a positive impact on Huntington, but the only question people have is parking,” he explains. “It always seems difficult to find parking on Saturday night, and now they’re expanding the space so that could be a challenge.”
As progress moves forward, he does acknowledge the passing of the defunct IMAC, whose founders Rothbard and Bodily were friends of his own parents, Vic Skolnick and Charlotte Sky.
“The loss of IMAC left a big hole,” says Skolnick. “The town started to get a little dull. Because I’m in culture, I’m not interested in fashion boutiques and bars, which is what we have a lot of at the moment. And while The Paramount is a commercial venue, it’s nice to retake some of that [arts space] back. Plus, anything that encourages people to get in the car and out of the house to see live music or movies is a good thing.”