CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -Some might consider laughter essential, and the folks at Hilarities 4th Street Theater have been making people laugh for decades. But like others in the hospitality and live entertainment industry, COVID is threatening their future.
The comedy club was poised to celebrate its 35th anniversary in May, but it remained closed until summertime. Since then it has survived, but barely.
They’re bringing in heavy hitters like Jeremy Piven, hoping to safely fill the comedy club at a reduced capacity.
“That 175 people in what hereto for was a 400 seat room is that lifeline for us to get through this. We’re all hanging on,” said owner Nick Kostis.
Kostis has spent upwards of $130,000 on touchless faucets, soap and sanitizer dispensers, PPE, and a massive upgrade to their HVAC system.
They’ve managed to serve more than 11,000 people since reopening mid-July.
“In that 19 weeks, we’ve had zero incidents among staff, management and performers and we’ve never had a professional tracer call and say we traced something back to Pickwick, Hilarities or you,” said Kostis.
Kostis is focusing on communicating to the public that they’re open, and safe, and counting on the comics to do what they do best once people walk in the door.
Piven has been touring around the country, and is happy to be playing to good crowds.
“They have been incredible. Better than ever, because they want to laugh and we need to laugh right now,” Piven said.
He recognizes the importance of Hilarities to the city, and to the comedy circuit.
“Comics, and I’m not just saying this, love that club. It’s kind of renown for being one of the best clubs in the country. I couldn’t be more excited to be there,” said Piven.
Kostis said you may not be able to share a hand shake or a hug, but you can share safe human interaction through essential laughter.
He is worried about his club surviving this.
“I will tell you, it’s dire, for us and many many others,” he said.