Club owner stays afloat for one year in Elmhurst
by Andrew Shilling
Mar 05, 2014 | 880 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Nicki Camp
Nicki Camp
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Forest Hills resident Nicki Camp has been in the music business for decades, and last year he brought his passion to Queens.

Blackthorn 51, located at 80-12 51st Avenue in Elmhurst, looks like a rock-and-roll club at first glance, but with a wide range of musical demand from his audiences, Camp expanded from what he has historically delivered to hip-hop, R&B and all other genres of music.

“We’re a destination as opposed to a local 'Cheers' bar,” Camp said. “If there’s something booked here, and it’s being promoted, people will come here for that event.”

Blackthorn 51 opened last year and today, the longhaired rocker said he has just found ways to adapt to the changes.

“We get bands from everywhere,” he said. “There was a time when Queens had a great rock scene.”

Camp has lived in the borough for the last 20 years, and while he previously owned well-known Manhattan rock and metal clubs like the Bond Street club and the Blackthorn in the Bronx before making the move to Queens, today it's a different businesses.

“It’s harder now than it was 20 years ago,” Camp reflected. “The music industry has changed, the economy has changed and the world has changed.”

The club owner also spent years in the promotion business, working for now defunct venues like Don Hill and the Limelight back in the ‘80s.

Today, the biggest change for Camp is finding ways to attract the crowd from Queens, as he says he can no longer rely on promoting in New Jersey and Manhattan.

“It has been good, but it’s not like Manhattan,” he said. “We can’t book bands from New Jersey and get people from right across the tunnel. There are two tolls, so it’s harder in Queens. You have to find your niche.”

While audiences in the age of the Internet have changed the way they interact with live music, Camp explained they are now working towards putting out a website – in addition to the Blackthorn 51 Facebook page - to better appeal to the neighborhood.

“I used to do strictly rock back in the old days, but I learned that if you have a space you can do anything,” he said. “I can have comedians in here, I can do fashion shows. Just because you have a space doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to only doing one thing.”

Blackthorn 51 was previously a very similar space for rock music known as Arena, which Camp says went under after an accumulation of unpaid dues.

He explained that since there wasn’t much to change, they moved in and just made necessary repairs before reopening as Blackthorn 51.

“It was pretty much done the way it is now,” he said. “We didn’t have to do a build out. I was looking in the city but the rents in Manhattan were out of control. So I said, you know what, let me try this in Queens.”

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