Laugh Comedy Clubs wants to broaden its entertainment base at its current location on Market Street. (photo by Zach Dietmeier/WJBC)
By Zach Dietmeier
BLOOMINGTON - The Laugh Comedy Club appears to be moving away from a proposed entertainment mall in downtown Bloomington.
New ownership at the club wants a restaurant-designated liquor license at its current location, something the Bloomington Liquor Commission approved on Wednesday. Touring comedian Michael Gardner and his business partner Jonathon Findler, both of Indianapolis, form LCC Productions. They want to expand the club's shows to an all-around entertainment venue and a wider demographic, which would include serving food.
"I strongly believe it's not a negative thing to have," said Gardner. "We would still love to operate without the food, and the food is not to try to just operate for patrons under 21. I have said from day one that successful comedy clubs always seem to operate with at least a one to two page menu."
The new owners are still pending the license approval. However, the change faces a major bump on Nov. 26. The city council plans to introduce a proposal for a moratorium on new liquor licenses in the City of Bloomington. It's still unclear if the lockout would include the comedy club change.
"It seems like there have been many hoops to jump through," said Gardner. "We haven't transefered ownership yet. It's been a weird process as far as do you transfer ownership or do you wait [for council approval]. I think we are doing it right, or at least we're trying to."
If that hold isn't adopted, the Laugh license would face approval before the council on Dec. 10.
Changes are coming no matter what to the club. A focus on family acts and national comedians would fit well with an implemented food menu, according to Gardner.
However, Gardner said he's not interested in the idea of an entertainment mall on Main Street at this time. He doesn't even know if his club will be open in January, depending on the reaction of the Bloomington City Council.
"That location is the perfect location for me," said Gardner. "We looked at several possibilities, but it's acoustically awesome and is set up for entertainment, just the way it is."
The Liquor Commission said there is little cause for concern with approving the license change but also added that this case is a perfect example of where an E or Q designation is needed.
Mayor Steve Stockton, also chairman of the Liquor Commission, said he hopes the comedy club finds favor with the council.
"They are facing a council in transition, and this could be resolved one way or the other," said Stockton. "There's no easy answer as far as this approval is concerned."
Downtown Bloomington Association executive director Tricia Stiller had not spoken to the new owners before Wednesday's meeting but believed the change would be beneficial as long as the two organizations can keep close contact to see that the club doesn't become a problem location in that portion of the downtown area.
"The comedy club has been the least problematic venue in the downtown district," said Stiller. "People are there to see a show, and while the concerns for better control on downtown nightlife are still there, the club is already established. Personally, I feel there is very little cause for concern."
Conditions of the approval include the repayment of three months in missed taxes by current owner Adam Weber. Gardner and Findler said the debt can and will be immediately paid. Additionally, no drink service will be allowed after midnight and the kitchen must remain open until 11pm. The conditions are enforced to ensure the comedy club is not taking advantage of its restaurant designation. Gardner assured the commission that is not his desire.
Zach Dietmeier can be reached at email@example.com.