Les McCurdy is hopeful vaccinated audiences will be ready to return to his comedy club on June 11.
Les McCurdy has been biding time for his theater to reopen.
The owner of McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre in downtown Sarasota says he knew just from the early months of the pandemic that his business would be closed down for some time.
“I told my staff a week before we shut down ‘Save your money, they’re going to shut us down’,” McCurdy said. “This pandemic is real, and it’s going to last a while.”
His prediction proved correct. The comedy club closed for months. He’s found ways to occupy himself during the big pause — beyond spending time with his new grandson, he says he’s never spent so much time playing golf and fishing — but he’s missed the thrill of working a room and welcoming comics from across the Southeast and country at large to perform for Sarasota audiences.
That’s finally set to change. McCurdy’s will reopen on June 11 with two shows Friday and Saturday. The planned schedule is to have a series of weekend shows through June and July with up to 250 people in attendance and no masking policy. McCurdy said he has spent thousands on a new air-conditioning system that will help circulate and purify the air.
But this won’t be the first time McCurdy has reopened his establishment. McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre opened its doors last November but it proved to be a brief return — McCurdy says he was struggling to get as many as 100 guests into his theater during a week that would typically sit 1,200.
He feels this time reopening will be different, though, judging by the number of people who have been vaccinated.
He and his wife have been paying close attention to the national numbers for vaccinations but even more so the number of vaccinations for Sarasota and Manatee county residents. Once he saw a majority of people 45 and above — his club's main demographic — had been vaccinated, he felt comfortable opening again.
“We knew without vaccines that we weren’t getting numbers into the theater,” McCurdy says. "We felt by mid-June that everyone who wants a vaccine has had one ... I wanted to open at a time where we're not going to distance."
It’s been a long year of waiting, though it could have been more financially perilous. McCurdy, 65, says he’s no stranger to adversity with his business and has been saving money for decades in case of an emergency. Factoring in that money saved, financial relief aid from the federal government, and a reduced rate from his location’s landlord, McCurdy says they’ve been able to hang tight and wait for the pandemic to pass.
“People my age have lived long enough to know that no matter how much you have it together every now and then you’re going to get sucker punched in the back of the head,” McCurdy said. “... I’ve been saving money for a long time. If we’d been (only) five years in business, we’d be in trouble.”
A number of McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre faithful will compose the talent for upcoming shows including headliner Flip Schultz, Dale Jones and other comedians from across the Southeast. McCurdy says he wanted to pick “club favorites” who had an established history performing at the theater that he knew would be a reliable draw for people. The theater will also reprise its drag queen bingo night starting June 13. What's more is McCurdy is planning to host comedian Blue-Collar Comedy Tour alum Ron White for shows in early August.
Though he has friends that are fully confident he’ll find himself enjoying sold-out shows upon his reopening, McCurdy says he’s still not sure yet if that will be the case. He’s hopeful he’ll see people laughing en masse at his theatre again, and is excited to keep at it until that’s the case.
“This year I will host (more)" McCurdy said. "People will see me this year more ... I want to be here and I want people to see me here."
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