Downplays reports that club might move to Las Vegas.

CBGB is hoping to host a 30-date festival of big-name acts this summer in a last-ditch effort to save the legendary punk rock club, founder and owner Hilly Kristal told the handful of journalists and supporters who turned out yesterday (May 16) for the start of a fund-raising push.

Kristal indicated that he would invite Patti Smith, David Byrne and many of the other one-time fringe acts who played the New York landmark on their way to mainstream stardom. "If the Beastie Boys are around, I think they'd play," said Kristal. "Green Day came in one night and just played. Maybe they'd come back.

"There might be some people you wouldn't think of playing CBGBs," he added, noting that country star Alan Jackson was a fan of the venue.

The proposed string of shows could be the last hurrah for the club, which soared to fame with the rise of punk in the late 1970s. Kristal said his landlord, the non-profit Bowery Resident's Committee, is seeking to double the rent for the space, a fixture in what was a no-man's-land of flophouses and used-restaurant-equipment outlets before the area began to gentrify in recent years. "They do not want to negotiate," Kristal said. "They want me out."

He aired the possibility of recasting the facility as a broader-based arts center -- "maybe a rock 'n roll art museum for New York," which, he said, "I'd love to do." Part of the place already features paintings and prints, and Kristal mentioned the possibility of also incorporating films.

He downplayed reports that the club might move to Las Vegas, explaining that the idea was merely floated by the mayor while Kristal was attending a convention in Sin City. He said he'd entertain relocating CBGB elsewhere in New York, but noted, "I've never seen a fairly large establishment move and be successful. People really do want it here, and I think we have to fight for that."

It was unclear how the shows envisioned for this summer would help to keep the venue in its current location. In the meantime, Chocolate Bar, a chocolate shop across town from CBGB, is generating funds for Kristal's battle by donating a portion of proceeds from the sale of CBGB-branded candy bars to the cause.

Kristal stressed that no entertainers have yet agreed to perform at the summer's survival concerts. "Within two or three weeks, we'll start a pretty good roster," he said.