The owner of a legendary Asbury Park, N.J., nightclub that was once a haunt of Bruce Springsteen has agreed to sell to developers, who say they'll keep the building where it is and fix it up.

The owner of a legendary Asbury Park, N.J., nightclub that was once a haunt of Bruce Springsteen has agreed to sell to developers, who say they'll keep the building where it is and fix it up.

The owner of the Stone Pony, Domenic Santana, once said waterfront developers would get control of the club "over my dead body" after they threatened to demolish the building. "I'm in a no-win situation," Santana said yesterday (June 30). "I can't be throwing rocks in progress' way and fighting the developers. They have big pockets for legal bills."

Since it was renamed the Stone Pony in 1974, the building has played host to both stars and unknowns, including Springsteen, Southside Johnny, Bo Diddley, the Kinks, Joan Jett, Dion, Cheap Trick and the Pretenders.

Santana said under the sale agreement, developers could still tear down the building or use the name for new club elsewhere in the city. But officials with Asbury Partners, a company overseeing a $1.2 billion makeover of the city's decrepit waterfront, now say they plan to renovate the building, add a new dance floor and keep it where it is.

Santana bought the club for $375,000 four years ago. He wouldn't reveal how much the sale price will be. "I can't say, but I'm smiling," he said.

The club was the subject of a grassroots "Save the Stone Pony" campaign after it appeared headed for demolition as part of the waterfront development. Supporters, calling it a landmark worth saving, persuaded the city and Asbury Partners not to raze it. At a January 2002 rally, Santana promised not to let it go without a fight.

"There is no dollar value on an icon that means so much to American rock and roll," he told about 100 supporters. "Read my lips: Hell no, we won't go. Over my dead body!"

He said yesterday that liability worries after the Rhode Island nightclub fire that killed 100 people, together with the fact that the redevelopment plan calls for surrounding the club with condominiums, made him realize he could not keep it where it is.

Asbury Partners Chief Operating Officer Larry Fishman said he had no plans to demolish or move the Stone Pony, but the club's supporters are not convinced. "I'm not optimistic," said Don Stine, who co-chaired the Save the Stone Pony Committee. "I feel the building is obviously threatened."


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