Ferndale venues prepare to reopen post-COVID restrictions

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published June 22, 2021

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FERNDALE — Entertainment venues in the city of Ferndale are slowly preparing to open their doors once again.

Venues haven’t been able to hold concerts, comedy shows and everything in between since the COVID-19 pandemic forced shutdowns and social distancing to become the everyday norm.

More than a year later, popular locales in Ferndale have begun preparations for future shows. The Go Comedy! Improv Theater returned to its office for the first time June 2. Pj Jacokes, owner and producer at Go Comedy!, said the current plan is to return to live shows and classes by late summer, as the current state of vaccination numbers made him feel good about a return.

“It’s just a matter of getting our casts back into rehearsal and seeing who’s still going to perform, who wants to move on with their lives,” he said. “We’re kind of doing a reset, honestly, as far as seeing where everyone is at.”

Jacokes and Go Comedy! are eyeing the first non-holiday weekend in September for its return. A big factor for when it might happen is if Go Comedy! can find a new space for its training center.

Last year, Go Comedy! lost its training center space during the pandemic. Jacokes said they needed to find a new classroom or storage space because the theater currently is full of props that were stored at the center.

“We’re still waiting on the shuttered venue grants,” he said. “If we get that, that would be huge and it would be the difference between us opening with all volunteers or us opening with a full slate of staff like we had before.”

The Magic Bag, the largest entertainment venue in Ferndale, has begun booking shows for July.

Because of the type of venue the Magic Bag is, General Manager Andy Bochenek said they rely mostly on traveling musicians. As most of them aren’t touring until September, the Magic Bag’s original plan was to open then, and so far they have acts coming in through December.

What changed, said Bochenek, was the relaxation of CDC guidelines and the state of Michigan beginning to reopen.

“With all the restrictions lifted, on July 1, we thought it was appropriate for us to get back into business as well and really not wait until September to do it,” he said. “We decided that we were going to kind of ease ourselves into the process. So it looks like in July and August, we’re probably only going to be doing Fridays and Saturdays, maybe with some Thursdays sprinkled in there, but once September hits, it’ll be the best fall at the Magic Bag.”

When the theater does come back, it will be relying on local acts, cover bands and comedians to give it nights to be open and introduce everyone back, according to Bochenek. He said returning to live, in-person shows is a bit nerve-wracking, but this has been something he and everyone else has wanted for a year.

“I think everybody’s nervous,” he said. “I think they’d be lying to you if they said that they weren’t. Nobody knew how everything would roll out. The good thing is how it is rolling out is really the best case scenario for a place like us. Everything is rolling out so there aren’t many restrictions placed on us.”