The one ingredient restaurants, which are open for business throughout Washington, lacks is entertainers. If a bistro features a musician or comedian, it will be shuttered.
Adam Norwood, who is one of the owners of the Spokane Comedy Club, is upset about the situation. The Spokane Comedy Club has a restaurant license. However, comedy fans don’t frequent the establishment in search of grub, even though their George Carlin hot dog – chili, cheddar cheese and onions – is delicious.
It’s all about comedy with a side of comfort food at the Sprague Avenue venue, which is unable to open since it has a nightclub license. Norwood is trying to make sense of the ban on entertainment, which caused a cancellation of a pair of comedy runs featuring Damon Wayans Jr. and Brendan Schaub this month.
The club paid $2,000 and applied for a restaurant license last week in order to open in Phase 2. The request was granted on July 9. However, Gov. Jay Inslee later declared that all live entertainment will be prohibited at restaurants and taverns.
“I think Jay Inslee thinks he’s in ‘Footloose,’ ” Norwood cracked while calling from his Tacoma home on Monday.
“Footloose” is a 1984 film in which a small town bans dancing thanks to a local minister. “I understand that the state wants to discourage gatherings, but some comedy clubs will have a smaller gathering than a restaurant,” Norwood said. “We have a restaurant license. I don’t see how having one person onstage makes things worse. I just don’t think this is right.”
Norwood, who also owns the Tacoma Comedy Club, has started a petition via his company, Bark Entertainment, asking Inslee to allow live entertainment during Phases 2 and 3 of reopening. More than 1,000 people have signed the petition at change.org.
“I’m hoping that the petition gets to someone who matters who will listen,” Norwood said. “I’m not just doing this for us. I’m doing this for anyone who has a business like the Spokane Comedy Club. A coffee shop can’t have someone play a guitar. I just don’t get it. We’re very much like a restaurant. We have chairs and tables that can be moved. The only difference between us and a restaurant is that we have an entertainer as the focus. It’s frustrating.”
Every live event at the Spokane Comedy Club is canceled through Aug. 15. However, Norwood believes that if nothing changes with the state, it will be a long time before the club presents live entertainment.
“If things stay the same and we can’t put a show together until Phase 4, in my opinion we won’t be able to put on shows in the club until next year,” Norwood said. “We want to be compliant because we want to be presenting shows in Spokane over the long haul for many years, but we’re in a very tough spot right now.”
In the interim, the Spokane Comedy Club plans to continue presenting online shows. The response to the 10 virtual events that have aired on the club website since April has been well-received. “Online shows have been our only option,” Norwood said. “People want to see comedy now. I just wish we could put on shows live.”
On Thursday, three days after Norwoood was interviewed, Inslee issued new restrictions, including banning live entertainment events in all venues, effective Monday.