Beloved Nashville Music Venue Exit/In to Be Preserved

The famous live-music hall won't be turned into a hotel after all.

Written by Chris Parton
Beloved Nashville Music Venue Exit/In to Be Preserved
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - FEBRUARY 20: The exterior of Nashville's iconic Exit/In is seen on February 20, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

After a few panicked months of worry surrounding the fate of beloved Nashville music venue, Exit/In, music fans can rest a little easier. But it’s future remains uncertain. Developers who bought the property now say the space will be saved … and that preservation was the original plan all along.

Making a statement to WSMV on April 8, AJ Capital Partners founder Ben Weprin said that despite concerns his investment group intended to tear the building out (and put a hotel in its place), that is not the case. He was just prevented from saying so, due to a contractual restriction.

“Confidentiality was waived this afternoon, so we are now able to speak to the community about our plan for preserving Nashville’s beloved EXIT/IN, which was always our intent for the iconic music venue (the intent was never a hotel or any other use for the space),” he wrote. “Our goal and company mission statement is to conserve and preserve while maintaining the health and vibrancy of the communities we invest in. The EXIT/IN is no exception. In fact, the artist community was first to put the need for iconic venue preservation and assistance on our radar. Those conversations are also driving our first action as owners: to add the EXIT/IN to the National Register of Historic Places, so that nobody can ever alter or change the space, as it belongs to Music City.”

That’s good news for fans of the historic venue, which was due to celebrate it’s 50th anniversary this year. But questions remain. EXIT/IN has been closed since March of 2020 due to the pandemic. But when the building went up for sale in February, longtime operators Chris and Telisha Cobb’s bid to purchase it was denied by the previous owners, who chose to go with AJ Capital instead (reportedly due to longstanding personal differences).

Worries about the club’s future led to months of rallies, outrage and city council support, and a GoFundMe campaign was started to buy the building back. Over $200,000 was raised by locals and big names alike, with celebrities like John Osborne of Brothers Osborne, Margo Price, artist manager Seth England and more chipping in to illustrate how much the club meant to everyone.

Now, the new owners have apologized for the delayed statement of intent, saying they know it caused people to spend hard-earned money on the fundraiser. They’ve offered to refund anyone who’s interested at, but meanwhile, the Cobb’s still seem skeptical. In welcoming the news, they’ve also reiterated their desire to own the club they’ve run for nearly 20 years.

“We’re thrilled Ben agrees Exit/In must be preserved,” Chris Cobb wrote. “We’ve reached out previously to no avail, but hope he’s now ready to accept our offer to purchase the building and make a profit from selling it to us. A legendary place like this – and what makes it beloved by passionate people on both sides of the stage — is our people. Exit/In has been our family’s home for 17 years and we can tell you the magic of the Exit/In cannot be bought or sold in a real estate transaction. It’s created by the people. Learning to own and operate a small independent venue is a monumental undertaking, especially for a company best known for building luxury developments. We invite Ben to accept our offer so Exit/In can continue to nurture Nashville creative working class and not become another playground for the elite. The offer to reimburse donors to our campaign is interesting, but we know Nashville’s music community can’t be bought. We’re also glad Ben wants to see live music on Exit/In’s stage. We’re not aware that he has seen a show here, but welcome him in to experience the magic of the place… We’re more committed than ever to protecting Nashville’s creative working class – it’s who we are!”

The Exit/In hopes to reopen for public shows in June.