Wilmington music venue World Cafe Live at the Queen, the southern outpost of the busy World Cafe Live in West Philadelphia, will close in May, it was announced Tuesday morning. Later in the day, however, the real estate development firm that owns the 19th century Market Street building said it would be rebranded as The Queen and continue to host concerts under new management.
The initial announcement was made early Tuesday by World Cafe Live owner Hal Real. "We are proud of the role we have played as a catalyst for revitalizing downtown Wilmington, although we would have hoped the downtown renaissaince would have grown at a more rapid pace," he said in a statement. "Despite our best efforts to make the Queen a seven-days-a-week-operation, we have not been able to generate the revenue requuired to sustain such an ambitious business model over the past six years."
As the WCL at the Queen, the club, which re-opened the onetime burlesque house and movie palace in 2011 after it had been dark since 1959, will have its final show with on May 25, according to owner Real, who also owns the original World Cafe Live.
The WCL at the Q, a dramatic venue with a 60 foot ceiling, has a capacity of 800 in its balconied theater space, as well as a 250 capacity cafe upstairs, in a set up modeled after the WCL in Philadelphia, which shares a building with University of Pennsylvania radio station WXPN-FM (88.5).
The shows will go on at the Queen through May under the WCL banner, including Marc Brousard on Thursday, JD McPherson on March 5, Modern Baseball on March 20, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn on April 9 and Drive-By Truckers on April 20. Closing night on May 25 will be a free show featuring local acts.
The World Cafe Live venues licenses the World Cafe name from XPN and its syndicated Dave Dye-hosted radio show. "We were disappointed to learn that Hal Real and the World Cafe Live team have been unable to replicate their succcess in Philadelphia in Wilmington," station general manager Roger LaMay said.
The WCL was a tenant at the Queen. Developer Chris Buccini, whose Buccini/Pollin group renovated the building, told the Wilmington News Journal that a new company will be moving in and maintaining it as a live music venue. "Hopefully this venue will continue to rock in the future," LaMay said.
Tuesday afternoon, a Buccini/Pollin Group press release promised that The Queen "will remain one of the regions most exciting venues for experiencing live music and hosting privte events." Thanking Real for the WCL's years at the Queen, Buccini added that "BPG is committed to the long-term success of this entertainment venue. We understand how important the venue is to the downtown community, to the city, and to all of those who have worked so hard to make Wilmington a destination for the arts and entertainment."
It's unclear who will book acts into The Queen. BPG said it would "expand on [Tuesday's] announcement "in the very near future with exciting new developments." Wilmington radio station WDEL-FM (101.7) reported early on Tuesday that Live Nation, the world's largest concert promotion company was "likely" to take over the venue, but a request for comment from the promoter's Philadelphia office was not met with a response.
Meanwhile, Real will continue to operate the bustling WCL in University City and plans to launch a 'World Cafe Live Presents' initiative to put on concerts and events at other venues in the Philadelphia and Wilmington markets. The concept "has intrigued us for years and we're excited to start pursuing those opportunites," said talent buyer Christianna LaBuz, who has booked both the Philadelphia and Wilmington locations.
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