Owner of a Michigan Comedy Club Pleads With Politicians to Help His Shuttered Business

Like most people in the normal world, I love comedy, and watching a good stand up comedian do their craft on a stage is always (almost) a great time-out from the craziness in our lives. Watching a comedy special on Netflix or for you old-timers, HBO, is great but there is nothing like being in that room with other people at a live show.

That is why this Facebook post by a local legend here in Metro Detroit by the name of Mark Ridley, hit me in the feels. Mark is the owner of Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak Michigan and they have for over the past 4 decades had every great and soon to be great comic enter those hallowed walls and entertain people here in southeastern Michigan.

This is NOT a political post, but just the plea of a small business owner who is looking for answers as are many other small business owners here in the State of Michigan. So in the spirit of Marks plea, I will reserve my comments on what I think about how this is being handled by our leaders for another post.

I will say this though.

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We need answers.

We need to start acting to save our small businesses.

We need to get back to laughing at other places than at home.

Here is the link to Mark’s Facebook post HERE and the text of it below.

An Open Letter to:
President Donald J. Trump
Governor Gretchen Whitmer
Senators: Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Gary Peters
Representatives: State Rep. Jim Ellison, Congressman Andy Levin

August 26, 2020

I am writing to you to implore you to address the serious plight of small businesses across Michigan and this whole country. I have written to you in the past to speak of my comedy club business of 41 years (The Comedy Castle Inc.) in Royal Oak Michigan that as of this date is still shuttered by State of Michigan mandates. Whether or not this continued closure is necessary, reasonable or ultimately fair is debatable. What I do know with absolute certainty is that small businesses like my own are reaching a crossroads that will be impossible to transverse. I like so many other businesses that are shuttered cannot hold on much longer. We desperately need help at the local, state and federal level. I know this because I have been living this on a daily basis for the past six months watching my thriving business whither and die in shuttered darkness. Not having information, a verifiable timeline, clear outlines or at the very least an opportunity to discuss the incredible hardship of having something that you grew, loved and nurtured indeterminably closed is almost unbearable.
I happen to be a supporter of CDC Covid-19 guidelines and am a devoted proponent of “Mask-Up Michigan”, so please do not misinterpret this correspondence. I am asking you to find a way to save small businesses. We need to create refundable business income tax credits and property tax forbearance. We need to enact local laws that would prohibit the enforcement of personal liability provisions in commercial leases or rental agreements involving Covid-19 impacted tenants. We need to supply new small business loans with reasonable repayments terms, manageable interest rates and extended terms that will allow businesses to regain their footing.
Additionally it is beyond bewildering to have paid huge sums of money to insurance companies for “Business Interruption” coverage only to discover that pandemics and mandated closures by the government are simply not covered. Well I say good luck ever trying to convince a small business to sign up again! This is deplorable and every elected official across this country should be equally outraged. “Force majeure” is nothing more than horse manure. Why doesn’t Washington instruct the insurance industry to pay on “business interruption coverage” and then bail the insurance companies out? There certainly doesn’t appear to be any hesitancy in indiscriminately saving large companies. I ask, are you going to stand idly by and watch small businesses across this state and country surrender under impossible odds and shut forever? Where is the help? Where is the balanced fairness, the empathy, and the concern for middle class lives that are at the brink? What will this country look like in another six months? Main Street businesses need America and just as importantly America needs the mom and pop corner markets, the independently owned pizza parlors, the barbershops and hair salons and all the wonderfully diverse small businesses that make up the flavor of our communities and determine the success of our neighborhoods.
My business was a recipient of the first PPP, which was virtually useless, as 75% of the money I received had to go to employees who were already on unemployment. My business was shuttered and yet my bills and responsibilities continued: rent, utilities, security systems payments, website costs, insurance, property taxes, health insurance expenses, renewing my liquor license and trademark expenses. If I could have used the PPP money to pay my $10,000 a month rent that honestly would have been a godsend, as it was the money I received was washed away in two short months and did little to save my business. On top of all of this try to imagine hearing that large businesses gutted the PPP system of millions, inscrutable individuals bought Ferraris, prison inmates received unemployment, millions of dollars went to deceased Americans and so on. Thievery, un-American gluttony and inexcusable incompetence. The despair that small businesses feel when money is wasted and lost in this way makes it all the more difficult to bear.
Its way past time for the government to act and stop sitting on their hands, to continue bemoaning the looming economic forecast, and to casually watch truly remarkable hard working Americans turn off the lights, take a last look around at their business and walk silently away from their life’s investment in the American dream. I implore you, save us, save the middle class, save these unique and remarkable businesses and in doing so save our country and what makes America so limitless and great. Stand with us, fight for us, and use your voice and your votes to stop this plunder.

Sara and Mark Ridley

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