VENUE NEWS: China Club Live Sessions Resume May 12

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Nearing the eve of their 20th year anniversary, China Club co-owners Danny Fried and Michael Barrett are inaugurating "China Club Live," the return of their infamous weekly pro-jam session, beginning May 12 and every Wednesday night thereafter, at their newly renovated New York location at 268 W. 47th Street.

Touted by the New York Post in 1991 as "Rock's Living Room" having hosted everyone from Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Jimmy Page, Sting, Prince, Jon Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, to Elton John, China Club will continue its legacy. "China Club Live" will feature a prestigious house band as a number of unexpected musical luminaries join in on the fun.

"The live rock 'n roll scene has been dead in New York for years," states Fried. "We plan to resurrect it by bringing together top level artists on a weekly basis. Great players love to play. Put them in the same room and you make magic!"

The house band will be fronted by lead guitarist/vocalist Bobby Bandiera (Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny, Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton, BB King) and includes musical director/host/guitarist Carlos Alomar (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Luther Vandross), tenor saxophonist Joey Stann (Aerosmith, Clapton, Southside Johnny), baritone saxophonist Ed Manion (Springsteen, Robert Cray, Diana Ross), trumpet player Chris Anderson (Springsteen, Southside Johnny, B.B. King), drummer Joe Bellia (Southside Johnny, Dave Mason, Jon Bon Jovi), bass player Steve Schewchuck (Jon Bon Jovi, David Bryan, Southside Johnny) and keyboardist Kevin Kavanaugh (Southside Johnny, Little Steven, Teddy Pendergrast). –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

New Seats Part Of $5 Million Upgrade At Target Center

MINNEAPOLIS (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Target Center and city officials announced plans Thursday to replace all of the arena's 19,000 aging seats by the fall.

The new seats, which will cost about $5 million, will be installed during the summer and will be ready by mid-October.

The upgrade is one of many improvements for Target Center as it tries to compete with the newer Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. A makeover of the arena began last year with a new scoreboard and a parquet-style court.

About 450 seats will be added to the lower level, and about 1,700 folding chairs on the lower-level will be replaced with wider, permanent armchairs. All upper level seats will have cup holders, and the seat designs will be in the Timberwolves' team colors instead of the current red.

"By adding more lower level seats and improving sightlines, we're improving the experience of fans and concert goers alike," Timberwolves President Rob Moor said.

The renovation comes as a new group, which includes Timberwolves and Lynx owner Glen Taylor, takes over arena management this month from Clear Channel Entertainment..

Major Venues Without Permits – Atlanta Fire Chief Alleges Criminal Acts

ATLANTA (AP)–The city's fire marshal retired after it was revealed that the Braves' Turner Field–where he had a part-time job–had gone without fire safety permits for years. Officials say a police investigation of the fire department is under way.

“The only thing I can do is clean up the mess that was left me,'' Fire Chief Dennis Rubin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. Rubin, hired as fire chief in December, is locking the department's inspection records to prevent tampering.

Rubin used the words “anomalies'' and “inappropriate'' to describe why he wanted the inspections investigated, but would not elaborate further.

A police investigation already was under way, Rubin said, when he discovered last week that Turner Field had been operating without fire-safety permits since 1997, the year the park opened.

Nathaniel Grissom, the city's fire marshal, and Liz Summers, director of fire safety education, had been moonlighting at Turner Field for years as in-house fire marshals. Grissom, who had worked for the department for 31 of his 55 years, was stripped of his title last week and abruptly retired Monday.

Grissom and Summers did not return calls Wednesday, the newspaper said.

Still, the chief insisted the new investigation was unrelated, but said the stadium situation was among the anomalies that prompted the investigation.

“It's not Turner Field,'' he said. “It's a separate issue I'm chasing after.'' He had said last week that he would check the records of all public venues in Atlanta, including bars, concert halls and other sports venues.

Atlanta police, conducting the investigation at Rubin's request, would not comment. Braves spokesman Greg Hughes said the police investigation “doesn't involve us.''

Fire inspections at Turner Field in March and April revealed 61 and 108 city fire violations respectively. By last week, all violations were corrected.

Rubin said he was continuing an internal investigation into Grissom's employment at Turner Field and added that some fire safety inspectors had resented Grissom's and Summers' apparent lock on extra employment there.

They complained “they got knocked out of the gravy,'' Rubin said.

Last week, Rubin banned senior fire officials from working at any fire safety-related extra job.

The department has 17 fire safety inspectors for the city and four for the airport. Inspectors are responsible for about 12,000 commercial buildings a year.

Bank Of America Weighs FleetCenter Name

BOSTON (AP) — Thousands of Democrats are expected here for their national convention come July, but the actual name of the building where they'll meet remains a mystery.

For now, the arena, perched above North Station and home to the Boston Celtics and Bruins, is called the FleetCenter. But that likely won't last much past early April, when Bank of America's $47 billion takeover of FleetBoston Financial Corp. is expected to be finalized.

While it stands to reason Bank of America will want its name up before the Democratic National Convention in late July, the name change doesn't appear to be at the top of the bank's admittedly large "to do" list. Company spokeswoman Eloise Hale said Wednesday she isn't aware of any discussions that have taken place on the matter. FleetCenter spokesman Jim Delaney said "casual" conversations have taken place but nothing definitive.

Bostonians appear surprisingly uninterested, given their passion for local sports teams. The FleetCenter, architecturally antiseptic and home to teams that have gone decades without a championship, has never inspired affection like the old Boston Garden it replaced or baseball's historic Fenway Park.

Meanwhile, fans seem resigned to "Bank of America" being part of the name.

Still, sports marketing gurus, at least, are curious about the rest of the name. Will the company, which recently bought rights to the home stadium of the NFL's Carolina Panthers, pick the benign but boring "Bank of America Center" or "Bank of America Pavilion?"

Or might it, in a nod to Boston's sports history, pick something along the lines of "Bank of America Garden," endearing the out-of-town firm to locals but risking throwing out the marketing punch should the name get shortened in popular parlance to "The Garden."

"As a Bostonian who loves the Bruins and loves the Celtics, calling it the 'Bank of America Garden' or 'The Garden, Presented by Bank of America,' would be a very appealing thing," said Jeff Bennett, president of Bennett Global Marketing Group, a Waltham company that specializes in sports. "That would be a very positive brand extension and entree into the community."

But, Bennett and others said, after paying big money to buy FleetBoston, Bank of America is unlikely to forfeit a chance to gets its name out in a critical new market.

"I can't imagine a company like Bank of America being the sentimental sort," said Larry Moulter, a veteran Boston sports marketer and former FleetCenter president. Besides, he added, after nine years, the city is used to the new building.

"To go back to the Garden would seem to me a silly idea," he said.

The FleetCenter was to be called the Shawmut Center under a 15-year, $30 million deal, but Shawmut National Corp. was bought by Fleet Financial Group before any signs went up.

FleetCenter spokesman Jim Delaney said changing the name would be "a pretty extensive process financially and physically." But the contract includes a renegotiation provision, so there are no inherent obstacles.

Fleet has changed its own logo three times since the building went up, Delaney said, so arena executives know it's a big project.

"We've gone through a smaller variation of the process," Delaney said. "But everything from cups to the Jumbotron signage, right up and down the line, there's quite a number of physical changes that would happen."

Failing to finish it all at once wouldn't be the end of the world, experts said. Gillette managed to get most of the work done fairly quickly despite buying the rights to the new New England Patriots stadium from struggling Internet company CMGI in 2002 just a few weeks before the season started.

Lina Garcia, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Convention committee, said uncertainty over the name was not affecting planning.

"We're not worried at all," she said. "As long as the building's still there, we're fine with it."

Bennett said he knows Bank of America may have bigger fish to fry as it merges the two giant companies, but said it should pay careful attention to rolling out a new name. Handling it well could give New Englanders a strong first impression of the company; ignoring it could do the reverse.

"With proper planning and some foresight I think this could be a very big win as they enter New England and really ensconce themselves into this community," Bennett said. "The passion people have for teams that spills over into venues."

Bruce Ratner Says He Will Try To Avoid Eminent Domain In Brooklyn

NEW YORK (AP) — The real estate developer that purchased the New Jersey Nets and intends to move the team to Brooklyn said Tuesday it will try to reach agreements with businesses and residents who would be displaced by a new arena instead of seeking to remove them through eminent domain.

"We're looking to substantially modify our plan, if necessary," said Jim Stuckey, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, speaking about the company's original proposal to force people out through government eminent domain laws.

At a City Council committee hearing Tuesday, the Bloomberg administration and the developer said they didn't know how many people would be displaced. Forest City Ratner previously had said 250 to 400, while opponents of the arena maintain that at least 870 residents would have to leave, besides 500 people who work in the neighborhood, which is near downtown Brooklyn.

The sale of the Nets — who play in the Meadowlands sports complex, in East Rutherford, N.J. — to developer Bruce Ratner, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner, was announced in January; the NBA has not given its approval.

Ratner wants to build a Frank Gehry-designed arena for the team over the Atlantic Yards rail depot, which is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He is seeking to buy the air rights from the state-run MTA.

The $2.6 billion project would include 4,500 new housing units, more than 2 million feet of office space, including four new office towers, and 6 acres of open space. The development would include a running track, skating rink and promenade.

The Bloomberg administration says that the 19,000-seat arena could generate $20 million annually in tax revenue and that the entire project would create 14,400 construction jobs and 7,400 permanent jobs.

The area has an unemployment rate of more than 9 percent.

The 800,000-square-foot project, however, has angered some neighborhood residents, who fear the arena would worsen traffic, crowding and pollution and would force people and small businesses out by inappropriately applying the state's eminent domain rules. Three city blocks would be demolished.

Letitia James, who represents the neighborhood in the City Council, said poorer residents would be replaced by wealthier people who would move into the 4,500 units of new housing.

The Bloomberg administration and Forest City Ratner officials said that 20 percent of the new units would be set aside as affordable housing, 30 percent would be middle-income housing and the rest would be sold at market rate.

"You can't develop a city as dense as New York without displacing people," said Andrew Alper, president of the city's Economic Development Corp.

Alper told the City Council committee on Tuesday that he was unsure how much money the city would kick in for the project.

He said "the vast majority" would be financed privately, though the company and the city are negotiating over various infrastructure improvements such as new streets and moving railroad tracks that could cost the city as much as $150 million.

Eminent domain laws allow governments to take private property for public use after its fair market value is paid.

Celebrities Gather For Theater Opening

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Celebrities gathered for the opening of the Ricardo Montalban Theatre, owned by a group that advocates greater roles for Hispanics in Hollywood.

The theater is a "dream come true," said the 83-year-old actor, who has long sought a home for Nosotros, the nonprofit theater group he founded in 1970.

The audience Saturday included Hector Elizondo, Robert Goulet and Valerie Harper.

The 1,200-seat theater, the largest theater in the country bearing the name of a Hispanic artist, is the latest remodeling of a historic Hollywood building dating to the 1920s. Most recently named the James A. Doolittle Theatre and previously the Huntington Hartford, it is co-owned by Nosotros and a nonprofit foundation.

Nosotros — "Us" in Spanish — set goals of increasing employment for Hispanics in the industry, improving the skills of actors and attracting new talent. Its original board included Desi Arnaz, Vicki Carr and Anthony Quinn, and it became a training ground for actors such as Edward James Olmos, Salma Hayek, Lupe Ontiveros and Lorenzo Lamas.

Officials Clamping Down On Loud Music At Jimmy Buffett's Restaurant

GULF SHORES, ALA (AP) — The restaurant owned by singer Jimmy Buffett and his sister, Lucy Buffett, draws plenty of customers, but noise complaints from area residents have led city officials to promise an end to loud music there.

Phillip Dierks, a Canal Road resident, asked officials at a City Council work session to put an end to the outdoor concerts at Lulu's.

"My windows actually vibrate, and I'm almost a third of a mile away from them," Dierks said. "As long as that band is outside, we've got problems."

"It sounds like we need to have some serious discussion with them about what is expected over there," Mayor David Bodenhamer said at the meeting. "And I can assure you that if they don't comply to what the noise ordinance says, we can shut them down. Just ask the people who used to operate the Margaritaville."

In the late 1980s, the city forced a club called Margaritaville – coincidentally named after the biggest hit of Buffett, a Mobile native – to stop holding concerts in its courtyard after receiving numerous noise complaints.

Lulu's was forced to move from its previous location on U.S. 98, southeast of Fairhope, when the state declined to renew a lease to use land adjacent to the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Lulu's manager, Jason Newsom, said the restaurant has made compromises to accommodate its new neighbors, including limiting outdoor performances to the daytime.

"It's tough, you know, it's 2 p.m.," he said. "We're next to an airport, for goodness sake."

Bodenhamer said that when the restaurant's relocation plans were being reviewed by city officials, noise was brought up as an issue, and Lucy Buffett promised there would be no loud music after 9 p.m. and that noise would be contained on the 27-acre site she shares with the developers of Homeport Marina.

On Tuesday, Buffett said she would compromise to stay in good standing with residents and the city. She said she chose to relocate to Gulf Shores because her family has ties there. She chose the site across the Intracoastal Waterway because it was in an industrial area and suited for musical performances.

"If I wanted to fight, I would have stayed to fight the government to stay in my old place," Lucy Buffett said. "I'm not political, I'm a cook. All I wanted to do was make some cheeseburgers and keep everybody employed and have a good time."

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