Eight small theatres and comedy clubs in New York have banded together to sue New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio over the city’s ongoing shutdown of such venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York argues that small venues could open safely at limited capacity.
Lead plaintiffs Catherine Russell, the owner of the The Theater Center in Times Square, and Michael Sgouros of Greenwich Village’s The Players Theater demand that the executive orders closing small venues be overturned
The lawsuit, which has also been backed by owners of The Actors Temple Theater, Soho Playhouse, Gene Frankel Theater and The Triad, as well as the Broadway Comedy Club and New York Comedy Club, was filed by attorney James G. Mermigis.
He said in the suit: “Casinos, Malls, Movie Theaters, Restaurants, Gyms, Catering Halls for weddings, christenings and bar mitzvahs, Bowling Alleys, ‘Saturday Night Live’, schools and colleges have been allowed to reopen but the small venue theatre industry remains shuttered despite its median capacity of only 144 seats.”
Mermigis notes that the average capacity is typically smaller than most of the venue types that have been allowed to reopen. The suit has aimed to distance the small venues from the larger Broadway theatres, which will remain closed at least until next June.
The suit states: “The median capacity of only 144 seats also distinguishes small venue theatres from Broadway Theaters which range in capacity from 539 seats to 1933 seats. This important distinction makes small venue theatres eminently more capable of conforming to CDC health and safety guidelines.
“The small venue theater industry is an integral piece of the larger performing arts landscape, generating ripple effects into larger scale theater productions. They continue to be a stage for provocative, cutting edge work, and are an invaluable platform for both established and up-and-coming talent, playwrights and creative production teams.”
According to the lawsuit, the small venue theatre industry generates $1.3bn in total economic output, over 8,400 full-time equivalent jobs and $512m in wages. The plaintiff venues themselves have “millions of dollars in revenue,” and “may be forced to permanently shut their doors.”
New York’s theatres have been closed since March 16.
Atlanta-based ticketing inventory and technology company Experience has announced it will shut up shop by the end of 2020 due to challenges faced amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Sport Business Daily, Experience chief executive Junior Gaspard declined to disclose how many employees will be impacted by the closure, but hoped the company’s technology is “kept alive” in some form.
Experience spokeswoman Kelly Buday wrote in an email: “Over the years, Experience has made significant progress in transforming the way fans attend live events, but the challenges created by COVID-19 have forced us to cease business operations by the end of the year.”
Experience, which was founded in 2011 by Tripp Rackley, was used by many professional sports teams to sell seat upgrades and unique experiences to fans. In 2019, Experience signed a deal with the NBA to operate its subscription ticketing service.
At the time of Experience’s 2014 $200m sale to Cox Enterprises, the company claimed to have more than 170 individual pro and collegiate sports teams, its partners including Live Nation, Ticketmaster, the Braves, Magic, Falcons, Cowboys and Univ. of Alabama.