While businesses have been dealing with the back and forth of shutdowns during the coronavirus pandemic, venues like comedy clubs and theaters have remained closed since March.
The loss of revenue has put a serious strain on one local improv company that can no longer come up with rent and is facing eviction at the end of this December. Finest City Improv, in Hillcrest, is fighting to stay open, though, hoping the community or anyone who supports the arts can help it continue to provide a number of services and entertainment
Finest City has been around for almost 10 years. During that time, Tara Johansen joined as a student and then became a member when she moved to San Diego two years ago, looking for a new start.
"It just brought something alive within me that I didn't even know was there,” Johansen said. "It brought laughter and joy and just this childlike fun back, the best feeling I’ve ever felt in my life, just being in connection and community with so many people in a really safe and fun environment."
But then came the pandemic in March. There have been a few outdoor classes, but the shows, which bring in the bulk of revenue, stopped when the health guidelines kicked in. Grants and a PPP loan have run dry and the back rent owed to the landlord has piled up.
Owner Amy Lisewski recently made an announcement.
"We are in danger of closing down our doors for good this week if we don't figure something out,” Johansen said.
It’s unclear when venues like Finest City Improv will be allowed to reopen. In the meantime, Johansen started a GoFundMe page to raise one month's rent, about $5,000
"It was like a pit in my stomach," Johansen said. "It was so sad for me because I feel so personally connected to the place -- all of my best friends I met in that theater."
Finest City Improv isn't just a place to gather or train on improv; it’s a way to escape the day-to-day and be entertained.
"It would just be a tragedy for our community, because it’s such a place of laughter and joy, which is something that we are all going to need after lockdown lifts again,” Johansen said.
Johansensaid she’s raised the goal to $30,000 to try to buy a few more months of survival. As of Tuesday afternoon, the GoFundMe has raised more than $4,000.