After teetering on the brink many a time, the Balcony Club in Lakewood closed down temporarily on July 14, then quickly reopened with a new owner. Off-and-on staffer Michael David Pyeatt confirmed July 17 that the club had changed hands and longtime owner Tommy Stanco was out.
"At midnight, the keys got handed over to a new owner, Teddy Davey," Pyeatt said. "Tommy has been on the verge of losing the club since 2009. There's something endearing about him, but it's also been a beating for a lot of people."
Musician Tommy Stanco has owned the Balcony Club since 1991. In recent years, he's had increasing difficulty keeping the business afloat.
Stanco, who is also a musician, has owned the club located above the Lakewood Theater since 1991. In recent years, he's had increasing difficulty keeping the business afloat. The Balcony Club has nearly closed every summer, with a routine that's begun to feel like the club who cried wolf.
It begins with a threat of closure, followed by a sheepish revelation of a large unpaid debt. Next comes the concerned hand-wringing from club regulars; some hurried marshaling, behind-the-scenes collection of funds to pay off the pending bills; and finally, a relieved announcement that the club will go on.
The routine began anew Sunday, July 14, when an update was posted on the club's Facebook page, announcing that manager Todd Buckley would be selling off "almost everything in the room that does not belong to the landlord. There are a few exceptions such as the PA, speakers and some of my personal belongings. Otherwise, it all goes to the highest bidder and no reasonable offer will be ignored, though we might have to negotiate."
That spurred two dozen comments expressing concern before musician and club regular Bruce Richardson, who is working with Davey, intervened with a note counseling patience.
"Take heart, there is still hope," Richardson said on Monday night. "I realize that sounds like a broken record, but progress was made today. We are trying VERY VERY VERY hard to save this club."
Richardson is working with the new owner, who could not be reached, to run the business day to day. According to Pyeatt, the club had an outstanding bill to the TABC of more than $10,000.
"That had to be paid," he said. "But it came down to the fact that Tommy didn't have the money for last month's rent, so he gave in and handed over the keys."
The Balcony Club has prevailed because there are few other places in town with its combination of live jazz and informal atmosphere, Pyeatt said. "People also have a nostalgia," he said.
Its survival will surely come as good news to the fan who posted this prototypical comment on the Facebook page: "I really hope you have success. I haven't gotten to go often lately, but I love the Balcony Club, and have for many years. We need it!"