The Improvisation, the Los Angeles nightclub considered one of the top showcases for star comedians, may open a sister establishment in Irvine by late fall if plans are approved during an upcoming city hearing.
If approved, the Irvine nightclub would become the third "Improv" in California, joining the 11-year-old Los Angeles establishment and a San Diego club which opened in 1984.
Dennis Trapp, Irvine's principal planner, said the planning commission hearing has not been scheduled but the target date is for late August. At that time, the proposal for an Improvisation in the Marketplace shopping center near Campus Drive across from UC Irvine will be considered. The hearing will focus on a required permit specifying club size and features, parking availability and addressing overall questions on whether the Improvisation will fit harmoniously in the neighborhood, he said.
"I don't really think there will be any trouble," Trapp said. "We think it is a proper use for the area and, in fact, it would be a great addition to the city."
An Improvisation spokeswoman, Fran Cowan, would say only that the opening is planned for "late, late fall." She said other information had to come directly from Improvisation owner Budd Friedman, who could not be reached despite repeated attempts. Representatives for the Irvine Co., which owns the Marketplace and the club site, would only confirm that a contract with Friedman has been signed.
Nick Dialynas, the company's leasing manager who participated in negotiations, said he was asked by the Improvisation not to reveal details until the eve of the opening. "I could tell you a lot about this, but I can't right now . . . this is how they want it handled," he said.
The city of Irvine was first approached with the proposal about five months ago when a permit for the club was filed with the planning department, Trapp said. Preliminary plans call for a one-story, 6,500-square-foot club that would serve up dinners as well ascomedy. If approved, it would probably take three to four months of site preparations before the nightclub could open, Trapp said.
The planning department is completing a proposal status report to be presented to the commission before the August hearing. That study will scrutinize the value of having the club in Irvine and pinpoint ways to ensure that the late-night entertainment does not disturb the nearby University Town Center residential community, Trapp said.
The Marketplace may be ideal because officials originally envisioned a nightclub or other entertainment center joining the existing businesses, said Trapp, who added that the neighboring UC Irvine campus might also provide a steady following.
"There has always been a responsiveness to it because (the Marketplace) can handle evening activity," he explained. "You already have the Edwards (movie theaters) there, so it probably wouldn't have any trouble fitting in."
If approved, the Irvine Improv would become the sixth club nationally either owned or franchised by Friedman. The original is in New York and there are also clubs in Dallas, Tex., and Las Vegas, Nev. The most luminous names in comedy, including Robin Williams, Joan Rivers and Jay Leno, have all played the Improvisation.
"There's no doubt it would bring some attention to the city; we are aware of the Improvisation's good reputation," Trapp said.
Eagerly awaiting the club's opening is Robert Hanover, the general manager of Hershel's Deli and Hot Bakery, one of the Marketplace's existing businesses. He said he hopes the late-night laughs will leave visitors hungry for a sandwich and cream soda.
"We're open all night so we think our business may pick up some," Hanover said. "People will come out in a good mood looking for something refreshing. How can we miss?"