Tipitina’s, one of New Orleans’ flagship music clubs, has new owners: the five members of the local funk band Galactic.

The musicians bought the club from Roland Von Kurnatowski, the embattled local businessman and real estate developer who has owned it since the 1990s, according to sources with direct knowledge of the sale. The deal reportedly closed Friday afternoon.

The band declined to comment.

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A bohemian alliance of local music fans founded Tipitina's in 1977 as a neighborhood bar devoted to piano wizard Professor Longhair — the club is named after one of his signature songs — and other living legends.

Tip's has sometimes thrived, sometimes barely survived — it closed for more than a year in the mid-1980s — during four occasionally turbulent decades. The Neville Brothers, the Meters, the Radiators and Galactic, among many other local bands, all cut their teeth at Tipitina’s.

Galactic’s purchase puts one of the city’s best-known clubs in the hands of musicians who have performed there for 20 years. Galactic’s New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras and Halloween weekend shows inside the yellow two-story venue at Tchoupitoulas Street and Napoleon Avenue are annual traditions.

The deal with Galactic includes the purchase of the music club as well as the Tipitina's business, according to a source familiar with the transaction. It does not involve a change of control of the nonprofit Tipitina's Foundation, which provides musical instruments to local schools and was founded by Von Kurnatowski, the source said.

Von Kurnatowski did not respond to requests for comment.

The sale comes as Von Kurnatowski faces multiple lawsuits related to one of his other business ventures. 

In recent months, according to several bands, Von Kurnatowski has had difficulty paying performers at Tipitina’s and the Orpheum Theater, which he redeveloped with a business partner and recently sold.

The Radiators’ association with Tipitina’s dates back more than 30 years. But the legendary band endured three weeks of delays before finally being paid for three nights of reunion concerts at Tipitina’s in January — even though tickets had sold out well in advance, according to Radiators bassist Reggie Scanlan.

As a result, the Radiators decided to perform at the Civic Theatre instead of Tipitina's during the 2019 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Scanlan says he’s open to returning to Tipitina’s under Galactic’s ownership.

Tipitina’s “is ground zero for New Orleans music,” Scanlan said. “It will be wonderful for it to be back in the hands of people who appreciate what it is and what it has to offer."

Howie Kaplan owns the Howlin’ Wolf in the Warehouse District and also manages the Rebirth and Hot 8 brass bands, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and Naughty Professor, all of whom have performed at Tipitina’s. He believes the Galactic purchase can only help to rebuild the club's goodwill.

“If anyone can put the luster back and take away some of the negativity that’s out there, they might be the guys to do that,” Kaplan said. “You won’t find people that care more about New Orleans music. I can’t imagine they would do anything other than take good care of the bands.”

Having owned a music club himself for more than 20 years, Kaplan is also well-versed in all the risks the Galactic camp faces.

“I hope they know what they’re getting into," he said. "I wish them the best of luck.”

Follow Keith Spera on Twitter, @KeithSpera.

Keith Spera writes about music, culture and his kids.