From 2003 to 2012, Zebulon was a standout venue in Williamsburg. It was kind of a hole-in-the-wall, but the loose way in which Paris-born owners Joce Soubiran, Jef Soubiran and Guillaume Blestel ran it, an eclectic genre range, an all-cash payment system for bands, a lack of cover charges, and random set times, somehow made it wildly popular among an in-the-know set. Word of mouth quickly made the place a critical darling, but even with the additional attention, Zebulon never ran itself differently.
During its run, Zebulon was one of the venues that helped foster the booming “Brooklyn indie” scene. Acts like TV on the Radio and Dirty Projectors all played the venue far before they became nationally known names (whose high-profile relationship endings make national news).
Hearing how things were run there, you’re probably assuming they ran into financial issues that forced Zebulon’s closure. That didn’t happen though. What did end up happening is that one day, Zebulon’s owners came to work, took a look around at a gentrifying neighborhood, and decided to shut it all down.
Even though the Zebulon owners possessed their building outright (which is as close to bulletproof as you can get in New York real estate), the constant noise complaints from increasingly affluent neighbors, the changing character of the community, and the diminishing of the atmosphere that first produced “Brooklyn indie” wore down on the owners. It’s kind of the perfect thing to do. Instead of watching time slowly wear on the venue’s quality and reputation, they just ended it like a dream.
Since then, the question has thus been, “What’s next?” The answer finally arrived five years and three thousand miles later. In California. The former Zebulon owners found a place in Los Angeles, in Frogtown, in the distribution warehouse for the Mexican label Altamirano Records. They renovated the place, brought over everything they were keeping in storage in New York, and named their new venue… Zebulon.
This 300 capacity venue has a very open, industrial feel with both indoor and outdoor space flowing into each other. The venue also functions as a café/bar that is especially active during the daytime, but you can stick around through the transition to a music venue and into the night.
One thing that has changed is that there are ticket sales now. As supportive as the building owners have been of the venue, there are still bills to pay and costs to consider (especially since it’s a fully legal venue). It’s frankly also bigger and nicer than the Brooklyn location ever was, so there’s a premium to pay there.
The new venue hasn’t exactly recaptured the old Zebulon, but that can be both good and bad. As Jef told the Los Angeles Times, “We’re still figuring it out, but we’ve always been very open that you can’t put us in a neat box.”
As a Brooklyn-based company, I can’t say this is a great development from us. But the evidence is pretty clear, Zebulon choosing LA over New York is definitely a point in their favor.
Need more info about Zebulon? Check out their official website.
2478 Fletcher Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90039
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