Got a note a little while ago that said Tommy Stanco is having trouble keeping the doors of the Balcony Club open -- so much so that come September 14, that might be that. Which is ... unthinkable. But true, says Tommy, who bought the joint in '91, three years after it first took its place in the perch above the Lakewood Theater.
He tells Unfair Park this evening he's been hit with everything imaginable: a dust-up with the landlord and leasing agent (both of whom are unavailable for comment, and for whom messages have been left), a technical issue involving the Lakewood and a shared fire alarm system that ran up thousands of dollars' worth of bills in '09, and a crap economy that's yet to rebound. "I was hoping business would pick up during the first half of the year," says the little brother of Joe Stanco, the late, great poet and music-maker. "But it never did."
So now he's in a bad spot: His credit's shot, his truck's been repossessed, he's behind on rent and ... well, forget about his home mortgage. Everything he's got he's put into the Balcony, he says. Everything.
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"It's been hard times," he says.
You can hear it in his voice. We talk for a while about the good ol' days when Big Al Dupree held down the fort. Place used to be packed. Packed. Maybe it could be again. Who knows? "We're trying to keep the damned place open. I am trying to rally some money. We've got a couple of benefits coming up, but I don't know what to do. I've put my whole life into this place."
He says he's had offers to buy the place for $40,000. "There are so many wolves out there who wanna take it from us. I'm not gonna sell it. Not for that." He mentions one. "He wants the legacy, the name, the customers, the employees, all of it. I'll close it before I sell it for that." But he will take investors: $20,000 if you're interested, with all the thrills and headaches that come with being the owner of a jazz club.
"Dude, we're gonna hang in there," he vows. How, he's not quite sure.