As entertainment venues around the State of Alabama prepare to reopen after months of being shuttered, Stand Up Live offered its patrons their first chance to sit down for an in-person comedy show for the first time several weeks.
The dinner theater venue operates primarily as a restaurant, since it gets the majority of its revenue through food and non-alcoholic beverage sales. Stand Up Live opens about an hour and a half prior to the first show and starts serving dinner.
Workers spent the last couple of weeks hammering out the best strategy for bringing back customers for Thursday night's show.
"We brought everybody in and discussed it with the employees and the staff and made sure they understood not only what they were doing, but why they were doing that and how that works to protect both them and the customers," said manager Thomas Hand.
Hand was dubbed the unofficial "public safety/sanitation czar" for Stand Up Live. He said he enjoys learning about public policy and was also one of the more cautious employees at the venue.
He said one piece of advice for full entertainment venues who are opening up is to find those who are knowledgeable about the health order and those who are most nervous about reopening.
"If you can make the person with the most anxiety that works for you comfortable in your place, you're probably going to have the most patrons become comfortable in that place," said Hand.
As the doors opened around 6 p.m., hosts and servers, like Niccolette Cantrell, welcomed guests and showed them to their tables, all while sporting masks and black gloves.
"It's definitely going to be a learning curve. Getting used to wearing all this and you smile so big as a server and you're like, now you can't even see it," said Cantrell. She notes that learning to smile with her eyes will be something she works on over the next few nights of shows.
Even though Stand Up Live functions primarily as a restaurant, patrons make a point of coming on the weekends to enjoy a night of comedy.
Charles Steele and his family visited for the first time Thursday night. He said they were nervous going out to the club, but said reading some of the safety changes put in place, reducing seating to less than a third of their normal capacity and putting out hand sanitizing stations, helped put their minds at ease.
"That's one of the big things we're looking for is just to make sure it's safe for everybody. Not just us, for everybody," said Steele.
Lavell Crawford is the headliner for Memorial Day weekend. He said he was on the road to Sacramento for a show when his tour was cancelled due to the coronavirus. He said now he's taking some precautions to keep himself and others safe while performing on the road.
"I'm going to hold off on the meet-and-greats until everyone can get comfortable. I think that's one thing we can do," said Crawford.
But as Stand Up Live moves into its new normal this weekend, folks like co-owner Andrew Dorphin said some of the best service they can offer is laughter.
"There's so much angst out there right now with everybody, we need to laugh. And if we can bring that back, it might help a little bit," said Dorphin.
Full entertainment venues can open up to the public starting May 22 at 5:00 p.m.