No kidding: Yuk Yuk’s plans return to Victoria

Yuk Yuk’s plans to open a new comedy club in Victoria after a 28-year-absence.

The plan is to build the club next spring at the former Samuel’s restaurant in the Q Apartments at 655 Douglas St., said Mark Breslin, CEO of the Toronto-based Yuk Yuk’s chain.

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“It seems like a good location from what I can tell, because it’s near the Old Spaghetti Factory. And they spend a lot of money figuring out where the right place to open in any city might be,” Breslin said.

“If it wasn’t for the slow speed of liquor licences, we’d be open now.”

Victoria’s Dave Wilcox and his wife, Yona Depue, will manage the club and own the franchise in partnership with Yuk Yuk’s. Wilcox’s company, Licenced to Laugh Productions Inc., has applied to Victoria for a liquor primary licence.

If the liquor licence goes ahead, Wilcox said, he’ll lease the space from Vancouver-based Concert Properties Ltd. The former restaurant, with a capacity for 211, requires $150,000 in renovations. Concert Properties has agreed to cover some of the cost, Wilcox said.

Wilcox, who recently retired from the navy, and Depue have never run a comedy club.

“My wife and I both love comedy. It was a long-term goal to do a comedy club,” he said.

Breslin said Yuk Yuk’s also plans to open a new club in Abbotsford. He’ll visit sites in both cities next month to “fine-tune the design.”

The Victoria comedy club would host comics from Toronto, Los Angeles and New York touring Yuk Yuk’s 17-club Canadian chain.

“Victoria will be a very welcome addition because it will share acts and expenses with [our clubs in] Vancouver and Abbotsford,” said Yuk Yuk’s president Jeff Silverman.

Silverman said he has been impressed so far with the Victoria partners.

“They’ve thrown themselves into it. They’ve overcome some great obstacles to get this place. And we’ve got our fingers crossed.”

Both Breslin and Silverman say the Victoria club will provide performance opportunities for local comics, including newcomers to the stage.

Aaron McGeough, a manager at Heckler’s Bar & Grill, said he’s not worried about the competition Yuk Yuk’s might offer his eight-year-old comedy club.

“It’s a great opportunity for local comedians. In Victoria we have a burgeoning young comedy scene. And this essentially doubles their opportunity to perform and develop,” he said.

The last Yuk Yuk’s club in Victoria operated on lower Fort Street. It shut down in 1987 after 12 months. Breslin attributes the closing to problems with management and administration.

“The people [running it] weren’t the right people, and we weren’t as astute at running clubs from that far away.”

achamberlain@timescolonist.com

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