Uncertainty Surrounding Return To Normal Hangs Over Comedy Club
OGDEN, Utah — At Wiseguys Comedy Club, it was routine business to have big acts come to town to entertain and for a full house to welcome them.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic began, and everything changed.
“We went from doing well, been in business a long time, working really hard to absolutely zero, nothing — that quickly,” said owner Keith Stubbs.
Stubbs said in short order he had refund $170,000 in tickets while canceling shows through the end of May.
Weeks later, his three locations at Jordan Landing, in downtown Salt Lake City and on 25th Street in Ogden remain closed and it was uncertain when they’ll be able to reopen.
“We’re expecting that we’re probably going to have to cancel shows in June as well,” Stubbs said. “I can’t announce, I can’t put on sale and (the acts) can’t book their travel.”
The uncertainty hangs over every venue and haunts everyone.
Nobody knows when the crowds will come back, when life will return to normal or when people can hope for what’s down the road rather than worry about what’s lurking around the corner.
With Easter weekend approaching, Utah Governor Gary Herbert renewed his call for people to maintain social distance and stay at home as much as possible.
However, he noted at his daily briefing Tuesday that models were changing to predict fewer deaths in the state.
“The modeling coming out of the University of Washington showed a much higher infectious rate and casualty rate in the state of Utah than what we’re actually experiencing,” Herbert said. “I’m really more concerned about what is happening in real-time.”
Herbert suggested if sustained reductions were seen in Utah, some of the restrictions in place could eventually ease.
“We ought to see if we’re getting to a point where we see reduction and if we have a reduction of the rate for seven to 14 days, that’s maybe a time for us to loosen, not tighten, and help with the economy,” Herbert said.
Stubbs said he’s in continual contact with comedians and their agents and hopes to return to business with workers as soon as it is safe.
Noting that he was an optimist, he hoped maybe he might somehow be able to open in May.
The reality of the situation suggested otherwise.
“I have no idea when we’re going to reopen and it’s scary,” Stubbs said.
Significant questions remain, even if restrictions were eased at some point.
“Once they say, ‘okay you can reopen,’ are people going to want to sit next to someone else, are you going to want to be close to someone?” Stubbs questioned.
He found hope in the fact that people appreciate a good laugh and that everyone is eager for some semblance of normalcy.
“People that hate their jobs want to go back to their jobs,” Stubbs mused. “People that can’t stand people want to be around other people right now, so this is changing everybody.”
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