WILKES-BARRE — The loss of a downtown comedy club is no reason to cry, say some in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
Wise Crackers Comedy Club will announce today it has signed a lease agreement with Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs to host up to three shows per week over the next year inside the casino’s Seasons Ballroom. A press conference has been scheduled for 11 a.m. when more details will be provided and executives from the casino, Wise Crackers and a former cast member of “Saturday Night Live” will be on hand to provide details of the partnership.
Scott and Anne Bruce opened the Wise Crackers Comedy Club in October 2005 at a renovated 175-seat venue, adjacent to Genetti Hotel and Convention Center at 15 S. Pennsylvania Blvd.
Hotelier Gus Genetti, who owns the property, lamented the loss of the venue.
“I wish them well. They’re good operators. They provided a lot of laughter in downtown Wilkes-Barre and we’re sorry to see them go,” he said.
Genetti said he has no businesses lined up to take the comedy club’s place now that the curtains are drawn, but he’s optimistic the space won’t stay vacant long.
In addition to Wise Crackers pulling the plug on its Wilkes-Barre location, Scott Bruce said that as part of the deal with Mohegan Sun, the club also ended its relationship with the Clarion Hotel on Meadow Avenue in Scranton.
The locations in the Poconos, State College and Allentown are not impacted by the casino agreement.
Bruce said the relationship he has had with Wilkes-Barre and Genetti have been wonderful and he has enjoyed both, but from a business standpoint, the move to a central location made sense.
“We had trouble getting people from Wilkes-Barre to Scranton and people from Scranton to go to Wilkes-Barre. Mohegan Sun kind of broke that barrier and makes it much more efficient from a business perspective,” Bruce said. He said being able to tap into the casino’s promotional machine will also be beneficial.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton also lamented another empty storefront.
“It’s always unfortunate to see a business leave the city,” said Leighton. “We look forward to working with future businesses for continued economic growth in the city of Wilkes-Barre.”
Tony Nunes, a Mohegan Sun spokesman, said the casino has a comedy club in its Uncasville, Conn., flagship casino and it has worked well.
The Connecticut casino’s Cabaret Theatre is leased by Treehouse Comedy Productions, which hosts comedy shows weekly. Nunes said the success there bodes well for the Plains Township venue.
“It also means more live entertainment,” Nunes said, adding that it’s a good use for the ballroom that was set to see a reduction of use once the new Mohegan Sun hotel and convention center opens next door.
Larry Newman, the head of the Diamond City Partnership, an economic development group focused on downtown Wilkes-Barre, said the loss of a business is not new but if past actions are indicative, the venue will be filled with another tenant.
“There are 40 more occupied storefronts in downtown Wilkes-Barre today than there were in 2007,” Newman said. He said that while Wise Crackers was a good attraction for the downtown he understands why the casino was able to lure them away.
“We love downtown Wilkes-Barre, but there are just large numbers of people going to that casino,” Bruce said, adding it was too good an opportunity to pass up.