Will the The Comedy Shrine in Aurora ever open again? 'No guarantee,' owner says
Laughter has been put on pause at The Comedy Shrine in Aurora.
Last week, The Comedy Shrine owner David Sinker and Fox Valley Mall officials confirmed that the for-profit business had temporarily closed. Its staff of 20 had been laid off, and the website has been down since late May.
"Our hope is to reopen in the fall," Sinker said on Thursday. "But there's no guarantee."
The Comedy Shrine placed a big bet on expansion in May 2021. That's when the comedy club with a 17-year history in the Naperville-Aurora area officially moved from a two-theater Plaza Square venue into a renovated 14,000-square-foot space inside Fox Valley Mall.
Along with an enlarged lobby to house The Comedy Shrine's massive memorabilia museum, the new Fox Valley Mall venue encompassed a 400-seat standup theater, a 200-seat space dedicated to improvisational comedy, and a 60-seat black box for more intimate cabaret-style performances.
Unfortunately, live audiences did not return in droves after so much time spent in pandemic lockdown.
"Like all live entertainment venues, the COVID resurgence suppressed performer and customer turnout," said Scott Samson, senior general manager for Fox Valley Mall. "We are actively working with The Comedy Shrine on a recovery plan, and we look forward to welcoming our community back with an exciting variety of new stand-up and improv shows along with classes, children's theater, special themed performances and the popular Museum of Comedy tours."
Sinker is behind an initial $30,000 GoFundMe campaign for The Comedy Shrine to address back rent, loans and other operational expenses. There is also a push from Sinker to find theater troupes or experienced standup comedy producers to sublease spaces inside The Comedy Shrine to bring in revenue.
And though The Comedy Shrine's jaw-dropping collection of humor and show business memorabilia recently was featured on the national MeTV show "Collector's Call," Sinker acknowledged that he may have to start breaking it up.
"I want to keep the Shrine as intact as possible," Sinker said. "But it may come down to my having to sell stuff to pay bills."