An open letter to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry:
I am the proprietor of The House of Comedy - a full service restaurant and Live Comedy venue in New Westminster.
Our business opened on Jan. 1, 2020. I know - great timing.
I’m writing to appeal to you to kindly give our business an opportunity to get back up and running along with our other colleagues in the hospitality industry for whom you have already granted that right.
Currently, B.C. is allowing restaurants and bars to be open at reduced capacities and socially distanced. I find it incredibly frustrating that people can go hang out at a sports bar, cheer wildly when a goal is scored, all the while conversing with their friends. I ask you Dr. Henry - how is that any different than going to a comedy club? The only difference between the sports bar scenario and the comedy club scenario is one person speaking over a microphone, 10 feet from the closest audience member.
As a matter of fact, I would argue that it is safer coming to a comedy show than going to a restaurant or bar. We successfully ran four different comedy clubs in four cities across North America for five months during Covid without a single case passing through our establishments.
We temp our guests, we seat strategically and we have the ability for immediate contact tracing due to the fact that our operation is a ticketed event - meaning we can reach out to all of our guests from any and all shows should the need arise. All of our guests remain seated (as they are watching a performance) meaning there is little walking traffic in the venue. Guests are also facing the same direction - avoiding face to face table talk and the related talking droplets. All this adds up to a night out with very little social interaction amongst the guests - as they are focussed on the performance at hand.
It’s unfair to continue targeting specific businesses in the hospitality industry. The government needs to put trust in their citizens as independent business owners and operators to safely run their businesses. Give us the chance. Should we get a case of Covid, give us a 48-hour closure; if it happens again - one week and if it happens a third time - one month. Fine us appropriately at each stage - but for the love God - give us, our staff and our entertainers the opportunity to put food on our families dinner tables.
I appreciate that you may not recognize us as an essential service or business, but I appeal to your medical training and your knowledge of the medical benefits of laughter on our physical and mental health. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving our resistance to disease. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals, which promote an overall sense of well-being and temporary pain relief. I would suggest, if B.C. ever needed to laugh, it is now more than ever.
I would love to try and ride this out, but unfortunately with us being a new business, with no 2019 financial records, we don’t qualify for any of the current provincial grants. This is a whole other can of worms that needs to be rectified. Why should a business be punished for being new? New businesses create employment, increase local spending and greatly influence the local economy.
Again, this should be rewarded, not punished. Without access to these grants and with our business remaining shuttered, the future of live entertainment in Canada is bleak at best.
Dr. Henry, I’m just asking for some parity and fairness when it comes to the re-opening of businesses. If any scientific data exists that shows the relative dangers of a comedy club over a sports bar, pub or restaurant, I will gladly stand down and wait patiently for your go-ahead. But if such data does not exist then let’s take a page from one of the all-time classic baseball movies - The Bad News Bears - and “let them play.”
Rick Bronson, New Westminster