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Judge dismisses Northern Lights’ bankruptcy case

Judge dismisses Northern Lights’ bankruptcy case

A Clifton Park nightclub spent Thursday fighting for an encore appearance in bankruptcy court after

A Clifton Park nightclub spent Thursday fighting for an encore appearance in bankruptcy court after a judge threw out its nearly 9-month-old Chapter 11 reorganization case.

After giving Northern Lights a last chance to pay off music licensing agreement fees, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Littlefield dismissed the Route 146 nightclub’s case Thursday.

The dismissal exposes Northern Lights to a line of creditors, such as North Country Commons shopping center landlord Whitney Lane Holdings and the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers, or ASCAP, who have been eager to pounce on the club.

Thursday’s dismissal was precipitated by ASCAP, a New York-based performing rights licensing organization that represents 330,000 musical artists and publishers. In August, Littlefield ordered a conditional dismissal under which Northern Lights’ case would be thrown out if the nightclub failed to pay ASCAP a $1,570 quarterly licensing fee.

The nightclub allegedly missed its Sept. 15 payment deadline, prompting the case’s dismissal. But Northern Lights attorney Richard Weiskopf said a check was sent to ASCAP on Sept. 18 — well within a court-determined grace period.

“It’s all going to be reversed. They had the payment on time, and it’s going to be reinstated tomorrow,” Weiskopf said.

ASCAP attorney John Clark did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Weiskopf said Clark had indicated he would today ask the judge to reopen the Chapter 11 case.

Northern Lights owner J. Kip Finck said he expects to be back behind the bankruptcy court’s shield quickly. He said October is slated to be the biggest month in the nightclub’s 11-year history, with every day but one being booked.

“We’re fine. Everything’s fine,” Finck said.

Thursday’s ruling adds another quirk to Northern Lights’ rocky reorganization. The nightclub closed temporarily in June after a malfunctioning beer cooler under a bar sparked a small fire. It did not reopen until July.

Around the same time, North Country Commons’ landlord was trying to evict Northern Lights because of late payments on its lease. Littlefield in May issued another conditional order saying Whitney could commence its eviction proceedings if Northern Lights defaulted on its lease agreement.

The nightclub’s five-year lease at North Country Commons expired July 31, but Finck received a six-month extension for it. He also plans to relocate Northern Lights to another part of the shopping center.

ASCAP was largely responsible for driving Northern Lights into Chapter 11 by seizing $61,500 of the nightclub’s funds in January. By July, Northern Lights had recovered 95 percent of the seized funds, but by then it had already defaulted on its lease. The seizure came 16 months after a U.S. District Court judge in Albany ordered Finck to pay ASCAP member Badco Music $48,000 in damages and penalties, according to court documents.

In a 2005 lawsuit, Badco accused the nightclub of infringing on eight of its copyrights for songs such as Van Halen’s “Jump” and Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.” Northern Lights in 2003 had stopped paying for its ASCAP license, which authorizes the performances of copyrighted material at the venue.

In May, another U.S. District Court judge in Albany ordered Northern Lights to pay $41,600 in damages in a separate copyright infringement case. Broadcast Music Inc. and several other music studios sued the nightclub in May 2007 over 10 acts of infringement during which bands played copyrighted songs, such as “Bad to the Bone” and “Brown Eyed Girl,” according to court documents.

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