Oct 1, 2021

Famed Mercy Lounge to exit Nashville's Cannery Row

Singer-songwriter Aubrie Sellers on stage at Mercy Lounge

Singer-songwriter Aubrie Sellers on stage at Mercy Lounge. Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Live music in Nashville suffered another blow Thursday with news that the Mercy Lounge trio of clubs will be leaving the Cannery Row complex when its lease expires next May. It's the latest independent venue squeezed out by rapid corporatization and skyrocketing real estate costs.

Why it matters: The Mercy Lounge complex, which includes the High Watt and the larger Cannery Ballroom, has operated at the Cannery Row complex for nearly 20 years.

  • These stages have been a crucial host to up-and-coming Nashville bands plus touring acts ranging from Adele to Chris Stapleton.

The latest: In a social media post early yesterday morning, Mercy Lounge said its lease will not be renewed and it plans to move to a new location, though it did not say where.

  • "We hope to be back better than ever," Mercy Lounge tweeted. "Let’s make these last 8 months on Cannery Row the best ever!"

What they’re saying: Metro Councilmember Freddie O’Connell, who represents the Cannery Row neighborhood, said the news is a "hard blow" to Nashville’s independent music scene.

  • "...it's hard to imagine losing that unique complex for venues," he told Axios.

State of play: The writing was on the wall for Mercy Lounge after its property sold to a New York real estate firm for $32 million in 2019. The current owner of Cannery Row said live music is in the building's future plans, according to the Nashville Post. Building owner Zach Liff said through a spokesperson that the Cannery venues will "remain as icons of our music industry after the leases expire."

  • This is a common pattern for Nashville music venues, which set up shop, help improve a neighborhood’s real estate values and then watch speculators swoop in and buy the property.
  • Venue corporatization is also at play. Live Nation has agreements with Marathon Music Works, the Basement East and Brooklyn Bowl.
  • "We need to act, and we need to act now, or else we will lose the independent music venues that made Nashville’s live music scene unique," Metro Councilmember Jeff Syracuse told Axios.

Zoom out: It’s already been a brutal year of no concerts for independent venues. And earlier this year, the city’s oldest rock club, Exit/In, was sold to a boutique hotel developer.

  • Syracuse told Axios that the Mercy Lounge news is a sad reminder of the urgency for the city to take action.
  • Earlier this year, Metro Council passed legislation sponsored by Syracuse with the goal of saving the city's most endangered venues.

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