Downtown ‘Carnevil' Show Catches County's Eye, Legality Under Current Health Order Unclear

The county's current public health order prohibits live entertainment

NBC Universal, Inc.

A carefully thought out downtown event is showcasing the fight entertainers are up against as they try and earn a living despite major restrictions forced on their industry by the coronavirus.

Welcome to Carnevil at the Gaslamp, a Halloween restaurant pop-up that appears to be a lot like dinner and a show.

“COVID happened and all the events went away,” said professional juggler Kyle Moore.

Since the pandemic, Moore has been on unemployment and his girlfriend Jessica Hutchison has had some work as a bartender. However, Carnevil could bring them some much needed financial relief – they’re the featured act for the event, which opened Wednesday and is supposed to run until November.

Carnevil organizers say they researched the local health order and tried to create a compliant show. San Diego County's order prohibits live entertainment, including theater, live audience shows and festivals, but organizers argue there’s no clear mention of juggling acts.

"We're going to do some hula hoops, some juggling, some fire fans, some palm torches,” Hutchison explained.

They’ll perform on a Fifth Avenue patio in front of diners. Tickets to the private event are $47.

"Everyone has masks on. The tables are distanced enough and the capacity is limited for the event. I feel safe,” Moore said.

"We all need human connection, even if it is six feet away,” Hutchison added.

Restaurant pop-ups are the latest effort to keep afloat the live performance and the special event industries. And while it appears as though Carnevil is doing everything it can do keep its talent and patrons safe, is the event actually legal under the current health order?

The event coordinator told NBC 7 both the city and county were attempting to shut them down. A San Diego fire inspector also came to opening night, and not as a member of the audience.

A camera was rolling when what appeared to be a heated discussion with the event coordinator happened outside the event.

The fire inspector said as far as the city is concerned, the event is operating safely. The county, on the other hand, is planning to meet with organizers Thursday to discuss the operation.

NBC 7 reached out to the county Wednesday afternoon to see if Carnevil was operating within public health order guidelines. A spokesperson said he had not heard of the event, but would look into it.

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