Friday's announced sale of the 500-seat Bayou in Georgetown to Cellar Door Productions has prompted a legal challenge from Michael Schreibman, whose New Era Concerts has been providing concerts at the Bayou for almost two years.
Howell Begle of Verner Liipfert Bernhard McPherson and Alexander said he will formally request either today or tomorrow that the antitrust division of the Department of Justice enjoin Cellar Door Productions from acquiring the Bayou or undertaking the club's exclusive booking arrangement.
Begle asserts that Cellar Door's longstanding dominant position in the Washington concert market, coupled with acquisition of the Bayou, would have "a chilling and serious anticompetitive effect."
"In recent months, the Bayou, under independent management, has emerged as an inportant alternative to Cellar Door, both in the presenting of established performers and the showcasting of new talent," Begle argued. He also represents the Kennedy Center and the American Film Institute, and said that New Era productions at the Bayou and elsewhere have benefited both the public and performers by providing "significant alternatives."
Schreibman, who has been producing concerts since 1968 and who is still considering private legal action, said, "I have to protect my interests and the interests of the music business in Washington." New Era had been averaging 15 shows a month at the Bayou over the past year. The only other major production companies in Washington are Dimensions Unlimited and Tiger Flower, both of which emphasize black entertainment.
Dave Williams, principal owner with Jack Boyle of Cellar Door Productions, chose to withhold comment until Schreibman took specific action. Williams said Cellar Door has been negotiating for nearly two years to buy the Bayou from Vincent and Tony Tramonte, longtime owners of the K Street club. Before New Era's involvement, Jack Boyle first made an offer for the Bayou as far back as 1968. The selling price to Cellar Door was reportedly around the half-million-dollar mark.
Cellar Door, which handles most Capital Centre concerts, is one of the country's largest promoters, with productions running from Baltimore to Florida.
The Bayou, located at 3135 K St. NW, started out in 1953 as a Dixieland jazz club before moving to a rock format in 1967. Cellar Door Productions plans to take over the club Feb. 11.