No laughs: comedy club considering lawsuit after AHS shutdown

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EDMONTON –
Edmonton’s most popular comedy club plans to file a complaint after it was closed by health officials this week.

The Comic Strip in West Edmonton Mall was ordered to close on Wednesday by Alberta Health Services, which said comedy clubs are not allowed in the first phase of reopening.

AHS closure

The comic had already organized several stand-up performances between May 14 and May 20, the day it received the order to close. According to the owner, the club received an audience of around 75 people or less than 25% of its capacity (full capacity is 425) without any problems.

“They call me on the phone to tell me to be arrested immediately. I said, “Why? “Said Rick Bronston, who added that he was blinded by the AHS decision.

In a statement to CTV News, AHS said it “had consulted The Comic Strip (Wednesday) to explain its compliance status” under existing public health orders.

“The comic strip, an entertainment company, is not currently part of phase 1, a decision to close was therefore issued,” said the press release.

According to Alberta Health, as an entertainment company, The Comic Strip is classified as a Stage 2 company, for which there is currently no stimulus date.

“I just don’t think they can put all the companies in one category,” said Bronson.

Comics

Comedy clubs and theaters remain closed due to the increased risk of public health risks. The Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health said Thursday that activities such as singing, cheering and laughing can increase the risk of COVID-19 spreading beyond two meters.

“If it’s a comedy club, if it’s some kind of performance where you’re going to have a whole room full of people who are all laughing at the same time, who are all cheering at the same time, there is an increased risk”, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

The Alberta Health Restrictions website describes the risks of singing and cheering, but laughter is not included.

Bronson said he understands the rationale given by Dr. Hinshaw, but wondered how the risk doesn’t apply to other hospitality businesses where people congregate.

“If the danger is a laughing public or people who roar or who are exuberant, I hate to tell my friends who are friends of hospitality, but I suggest that you have to close all the bars and restaurants, because people don’t go there for a bad time. “

STAGE ZERO

Comics is far from the only entertainment company affected by restrictions on re-launching scenes.

Spotlight Cabaret, just off Whyte Avenue, hosted a variety of entertainment before the pandemic. Its owner, Aimée Beaudoin, said that she understood the danger of seeing groups of people laugh or applaud.

Aimée Beaudoin

“It seems perfectly logical to me that the problem is with the laughing public,” said Beaudoin, who wished that the reason why entertainment venues were not allowed to open was more consistent from the start.

“The reasoning I had heard before was more about cleaning up the microphones, as the Calgary residents came to see the shows. Things that, for me, were easily rectified. “

Beaudoin told CTV News that until May 14, she was working with Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis officials on the entertainment activities that would be allowed, until they were informed at the last minute that they couldn’t have.

Empty stage

“It was unfortunate that we were told so late,” said Beaudoin, who added that his hall should cancel the artists and reimburse.

“There has just been a lack of clarity regarding our very unique performance hall, which is a bar-restaurant with a stage. “

Beaudoin said during the discussion leading up to the stimulus that there was also confusion around the comedies.

“Improv, stand-up … It was not specifically planned. There was no paper, no law, no note, no guidelines on comedy, “said Beaudoin.

Meanwhile, Spotlight Cabaret operated only as a restaurant.

Beaudoin said Friday that Spotlight Cabaret has since been shut down by AHS due to its entertainment venue license.

Cabaret closing

In a statement to CTV News, AHS said, “We are currently considering a food service proposal only on the Spotlight patio. We greatly appreciate the flexibility of Spotlight Cabaret and its commitment to helping Alberta reopen safely. “

At The Comic Strip, pivoting to function as a restaurant, if that is even allowed, is more difficult, given its business model and location on Bourbon Street.

Bronson, who believes the closure was “brutal,” wants to meet with AHS officials to demonstrate that his business can be carried on safely.

“I appreciate that AHS is trying to keep us safe; all i ask is that AHS come down and meet me. “

“Otherwise, my lawyers are ready to file a legal opinion. “

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