Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Eric Phillips determined to make Colorado Springs his residence after 14 years of service within the Military. Phillips is the proprietor of 3E’s Comedy Membership, Colorado Springs’ latest comedy venue, positioned in Bancorp Plaza on Nevada Avenue.
After his army profession, which included deployments to the Persian Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo, Phillips labored as a property supervisor earlier than going again to work for the federal authorities, first with the U.S. Division of Veterans Affairs after which with the U.S. Small Enterprise Administration. Comedy has all the time been a ardour for Phillips, who promoted comedy occasions within the ’90s and started constructing relationships with comedians and studying the fundamentals of the business.
Beginning a comedy membership was all the time a part of Phillips’ plan after leaving the Military, however he was ready for the proper time and placement. Sadly, COVID-19 got here to Colorado shortly after Phillips secured his excellent spot. The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on leisure venues throughout the nation, forcing bars, nightclubs and live performance halls to both shut their doorways completely or drastically cut back enterprise. Some venues try to climate the storm, however many have closed their doorways for good. Opening a brand new venue throughout this disaster poses distinctive challenges to entrepreneurs like Phillips.
Why did you determine to open a comedy membership, and what has that course of been like?
This was a dream I’ve had since I first acquired again right here, I wished to open a comedy membership nevertheless it wasn’t the proper time, wasn’t the proper location. Then this location got here and it was nice. I put the work in and redesigned the place after which COVID got here.
I served on the Colorado Springs Planning Fee for six years, so I noticed town rising, after which Mayor [John] Suthers got here in and he had the identical angle about development. I mentioned, ‘That is going to be a good time to do that, nevertheless it must be downtown.’ Most cities have a comedy membership downtown and so they have one other one in one other space that’s in a shopping mall. Our two malls don’t do a lot, so downtown is the place I wished to be. I saved trying down right here and I got here throughout an important place and that’s the place we’re opening up.
I did a stint in property administration and I knew some actual property folks. Relationships imply quite a bit on this metropolis, and I’ve met a whole lot of good folks. Simply realizing folks and treating folks proper has helped me out quite a bit. I do know a whole lot of restaurant folks, we’re going to have a Heckler’s Café. Numerous the folks within the restaurant group helped me out and gave me some suggestions and helped me get by way of that half. I’m not a restaurant man, I’m a comedy man, so I needed to get some recommendation from some educated folks.
How has COVID-19 affected your plans?
We signed the lease in February, and that’s simply when issues went bonkers. We had three months that we may work with out paying lease, however after that I needed to pay lease and we weren’t open but. It’s been a problem making an attempt to get issues carried out and work out the seating. We will maintain about 350 [people], so we needed to break that down and measure our seating and ensure everyone is 6 ft aside and put issues into place. We’re going to have UV-ray lights that kill germs. We’ve acquired fogger for after the present. We’ve a whole lot of issues we most likely wouldn’t have had to purchase if not for COVID. Our purpose is to verify folks really feel secure coming into this institution, and we’re going to do what we have to do to make that occur.
Sadly I can’t get a Small Enterprise Administration mortgage as a result of I work for the company, so lending was tough. They have been saying ‘We don’t need to make investments cash into an indoor venue. We don’t know the way it’s going to go along with COVID’ — issues like that. ‘Nicely you’ve got a restaurant, however is your comedy membership a theater?’ They don’t actually have a class for it as a result of we’re not a theater, we’re a comedy membership. A theater is massive, so that they mentioned ‘You’ve acquired to seat folks 25 ft from the stage’ and that’s not possible in a 5,000-[square-foot] comedy space. We’re working that out, and we would must put up Plexiglas so we are able to seat folks nearer, however all these issues are issues we’re going to work with town to determine.
We’re going to open someday after Labor Day. We had our first well being inspection and now we have to get some meals sampling going. We need to do that proper; we don’t need to open up and we don’t have every thing we want. Our liquor license is in place — every thing is in place, so it’s simply fine-tuning some issues.
As a comedy membership, how has COVID-19 affected the talent-procurement course of?
We’re all the time searching for larger names. A number of the folks I’ve labored with and reached out to: David Shapiro and Sinbad, they’re not touring but. Colorado Springs hasn’t been a most important place to come back for comedy. Loonees doesn’t herald massive names like that, they often go as much as Comedy Works in Denver. It’s going to be a special expertise for big-name comedians. We’ve talked to Invoice Burr, and we’re going to speak to everyone. I do know a whole lot of massive comedians and large names. We’re additionally going to work our native comedians. We’re going to have faculties right here, courses to allow them to come and be taught and get higher as up-and-coming comedians. It could be a possibility for them to come back in and write and we’ve got some presenters … who can are available and educate them the right way to current themselves on the stage, completely different genres of comedy. We’ll have some improv, however we would like them to be taught and get higher. What they do is an artwork, and also you solely get higher by placing the work in to make it possible for your jokes ship nicely and that you just’re doing the proper comedy that matches you. We’ll be utilizing some native comedians and watching them develop as they do this.
This business — most individuals don’t learn about it. It’s a special sort of leisure business since you often don’t have open mic nights and observe classes for bands. You could have a band that is available in and that’s what you’ve got. What we’re doing right here, coaching these comedians and rising our personal Invoice Burrs or Seinfields goes to be nice. It’s going to be nice not only for Colorado Springs however for Colorado.
Apart from conventional comedy programming, what else will 3E’s provide?
We’re going to do improv, and get with the improv group as nicely. We’re going to do a poetry night time, and an open mic night time. We’ll be open for lunch through the day; grab-and-go, we don’t need to do something sit-down. That was the plan earlier than COVID, to do a grab-and-go lunch as a result of we’re round a whole lot of workplace area inside a financial institution, which makes us distinctive as nicely. I don’t suppose there’s one other comedy membership that’s inside a financial institution. We’ll have a contented hour. Throughout the week we’ll be doing various things however through the weekend we’ll have our two reveals. We’ll have comedy for teenagers and households; we’ve been speaking to an area magician. We’ll have various things happening.
What challenges have you ever confronted making an attempt to open a enterprise throughout COVID-19?
Discovering somebody to do the work is all the time a problem — development firms, electricians, engineers. I knew an important architect who helped me out quite a bit. It simply was discovering individuals who wished to work, as a result of earlier than COVID town was kicking butt, and so everyone would overcharge you, which was attention-grabbing. You actually needed to weed these folks out and do your homework. Happily, I had good individuals who owned eating places and cafés who gave me concepts and helped me out. It was all the time a problem looking for out, ‘Is that this quantity right?’ or in the event that they’re making an attempt to recover from on you. Discovering the situation downtown was robust, however when I discovered it, it was the proper place. It’s been a problem making an attempt to juggle all that.
What is going to 3E’s add to the native job market?
Earlier than COVID, we’d have had about 15 to 20 staff, however we’re going to must slim that down due to capability. When that is over, we’re going to develop. We have been going to have a van that goes to Powers [Boulevard] and brings folks down for reveals. We nonetheless have a whole lot of plans, so we’ll be using extra folks as we go alongside. There’s no different place like this downtown and I feel with the vacationers coming in and the individuals who dwell right here, there’s little question we’re going to do nicely within the metropolis. We simply began our strategy of hiring. We’ve the principle folks put in place: normal supervisor, prepare dinner and head bartender. We’re getting the remainder of the oldsters and constructing the group.