La Jolla Comedy Store’s outdoor shows are shut down

An Instagram post shows how the La Jolla Comedy Store's outdoor shows operated in July.
An Instagram post shows how the La Jolla Comedy Store’s outdoor shows operated in July.

The La Jolla Comedy Store’s efforts to offer stand-up comedy in an outdoor setting were shut down over the weekend.

The venue launched its Outside Comedy Series on July 18. A stage was constructed in the alley behind the business at 916 Pearl St., lights were strung, tables and chairs were set up to accommodate social distancing, and comedians were booked.

Comedian Vicki Barbolak took to the outdoor stage July 23-26 and said the concept was “wonderful.”

“I hadn’t been onstage for five months … I know there are places hosting Zoom comedy, but that is like having a Zoom date; it’s just awful,” she said. “The option of outdoor comedy was so wonderful. I’m not going out much, but I know the management [at the La Jolla Comedy Store] and knew it would be safe.”

The result? “It was so much fun; the audience was happy to be doing something they used to do,” Barbolak said.

However, as performers were getting ready to take the stage Aug. 8, management was told the show could not go on.

La Jolla Comedy Store assistant manager Mike Vinn did not respond to the Light’s request for comment but told CBS8 that “the manager on duty had to wait until everyone got there and tell them, ‘Sorry, we got shut down, here’s your money back.’”

Officer Scott Lockwood of the San Diego Police Department said officers “gave them a copy of the county health order” and “they voluntary complied with the health order once we let them know they were in violation of the order.”

Soon afterward, management posted on the club’s Instagram page: “Apparently you can sit outside to eat and drink at socially distanced tables and are safe as long as nobody is telling jokes. The Outside Comedy Series is canceled until further notice. It was fun while it lasted.”

A post on the La Jolla Comedy Store's Instagram page announces the closure of its Outside Comedy Series.

San Diego County’s COVID-19 health enforcement did not execute the shutdown, said county spokesman Michael Workman, though he said “state guidance currently does not allow live entertainment.”

Earlier this month, the county Board of Supervisors expanded enforcement actions when businesses and individuals don’t comply with county public health orders. The round-the-clock Healthy Compliance Call Center enables the public to report violations at (858) 694-2900.

“Current guidance for restaurants/bars/wineries state, ‘This guidance is not intended for concert, performance or entertainment venues,’” Workman said. “‘Restaurants, bars and wineries must discontinue this type of entertainment until these types of activities are allowed to resume, modified or full operation.’”

Barbolak, a 20-year comedian who was a finalist on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” in 2018, said, “The idea of the alley being turned into a performance space is the way to go.”

She said she feels less safe inside. “I don’t want to go inside; it’s stupid,” she said. “People are laughing, so they spray. And they are drinking, so they are not wearing masks.”

Several local businesses have taken to moving their operations outside after San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer signed an executive order July 20 allowing expanded outdoor operations for area gyms, churches, barbershops and hair and nail salons.

The San Diego City Council unanimously passed a pair of measures Aug. 4 extending the ability of local businesses to operate outdoors to help them survive the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A proposal from San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate would allow certain businesses, nonprofits and faith-based organizations to operate in parks. ◆