By Kevin Beaty | I went to a live show *inside a building* over the weekend. No lie. The Clocktower Cabaret is back open, albeit with very limited seating. It’s giving some performance artists a chance to do what they love again. And, crucially, it may help the business survive into 2021.
And now for some small-world context you can only get from Denverite. Staza Stone, who’s spinning above, is also involved in the circus art house on Tennyson Street that Donna wrote about recently. She recognized me while I was taking photos in the dressing room. I had trouble recognizing her, however. She’s worn a mask every time we’ve met, and it hit me as we spoke: I have never seen her face.
— Kevin (@kevinjbeaty)
The Clocktower Cabaret is Back, Throwing Pandemic-Appropriate Shows
By Kevin Beaty, Denverite | The burlesque venue’s owners carefully reopened with hopes they can make it through the pandemic. They urge you to wear a mask. It’s Friday night at the Clocktower Cabaret, and Jefferson Arca is making sure his venue is ready for a night of burlesque and comedy. It’s just the second weekend he’s been allowed to put on a show in his space beneath the 16th Street Mall since March, when Denver shut everything down to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Everyone, from the bartenders to the emcee, who’s Arca’s wife, Selene, are masked and ready. He’s arranged stuffed animals to fill seats in between distanced tables. A former Cabaret dancer booked most of the tickets for her friends, so tonight will be a full house. The audience will max out around 30 guests.
“We used to seat, like, 150 people in here, crammed in like a subway. That’s not going to happen any time soon,” he said. “Last night was rough: Only 10 people showed up.”
Like many business owners in town, Arca is waiting to see if his operation will make it to 2021. He’s run the show for 15 years. It’s where he met Selene and, together, they’ve poured their souls into providing Denver with their racy, kinetic performances. They have a lot on the line.
“I do love this place,” Arca said. “It is my full-time gig. It is my wife’s full-time gig. She does marketing. I’m also the GM. We also get on stage. We’ve always had our house as collateral with the bank.”
But the Cabaret’s future is no longer just in their hands. Arca has until September, when his federal PPP loan runs dry, to wait and see if the pandemic will abate to the point where he can sell more than 30 tickets each show. That, he believes, depends on Coloradans’ willingness to wear masks and do their part to keep infections from lasting into the holiday season.
Earlier that day, he saw an older couple getting into an elevator without face coverings. He pointed to his mask — “It’s a law now,” he told them — but the couple brushed him off. They’d be fine, the man told him.
“I’m not worried about you,” he thought to himself. “I’m worried about us!”
Arca said some of the club owners he knows are holding off opening until the pandemic cools off.
Clubs without kitchens still aren’t allowed to open. Even when they do, owners are waiting to see if customers are even comfortable returning. Some folks Arca knows will wait and try to spend as little as possible until they can fill their seats.
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After the audience regaled each act with applause and shouts, Selene thanked attendees once more and told them how to exit up some stairs through a back door.
“Go up there and spread the joy wherever you go,” she shouted. “But wear a mask when you do it!”
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