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Comedy club reopening under new ownership

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The deafening silence at the former Morty’s Comedy Joint is about to replaced by roaring laughter.

A group of local owners bought the assets of the upscale club on East 96th Street earlier this month and plan to open on March 4, under the same moniker.

Co-owners are Chris Bowers and John Roberts, both 36, as well as Tony Deardorff, 34. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

“We decided to keep it Morty’s because it had a pretty good name,” Bowers said.  

Bowers already is familiar with Morty’s through his work as a stand-up comic. The motivational speaker who operates Bower Success Development placed second in the comedy club’s Midwest Championships last year in the "Master of Ceremonies" division.

He and Deardorff, former assistant general manager at the downtown Jillian’s restaurant, were fraternity brothers at Ball State University. Roberts, the other investor, is a “friend of a friend,” Bowers said.

The trio signed a five-year lease for the 5,000-square-foot building with The Precedent Cos.

The former owners, based in New Jersey, closed the upscale club in early January after a nearly four-year run.

Former co-owner Andrew Pincus, a lawyer, said the group was unable to tap into the affluent Hamilton County demographic. The club ultimately resorted to filling seats with free-ticket promotions that attracted a crowd that wouldn’t spend on drinks, Pincus said.

“It was a rocky road the whole time,” he said. “I hope someone can take the name and run with it.”

Pincus has a vested interest in the new owners’ success. He named the club after his dog, Morty, who recently died.

Bowers and his partners plan to offer other entertainment besides comedy, such as karaoke nights and acoustic acts. They hope to attract steady crowds through “guerrilla marketing” methods using Facebook and Twitter. A lunch menu also is in the works.

Comedian Joe Materese, who has appeared on the "Late Show with David Letterman," will headline the first week.

On March 3, the day before opening, the club will have a “soft launch,” in which the $5 cover charge will benefit the Indianapolis-based About Special Kids not-for-profit. Bowers plans to perform at the event.

The new group of owners will have their work cut out for them. The Morty’s closing in January was preceded by the closure of One-Liners Comedy Club in Greenwood, which shut down in June 2008 after 15 years in business.

One-Liners, owned by Dave Wilson, a former radio host and comedian, told IBJ in January that he decided to close it because he was just too busy. He’d tried to sell the business, which included a large bar and restaurant, for five years.

Bowers said he's confident his group can succeed.

“I never went to Morty’s and saw a bad comic, which is one of the things I loved about it,” he said. “We want to keep that mentality.”

 

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  • FUNand BETTER
    I won tickets (10) to Morty's March 2011. 6 of the guest i treated had never been to the club and was very excited. The guest was BT, comedian that night and everyone @ my table had a splendid time. My brother said he laughed so hard once that he thought he would choke! The food comments were great and the food was worth the price i think now. I loved the new menu but i think the drink prices were a little high. Overall, we will be back with a new 'first time' group.
  • Just Went
    My wife and I went last weekend. We enjoyed ourselves very much. We did use a Zoo book coupon for BOGO but plan on going back soon without one. I would say the 10.00 per person admission fee is fine. The food was ok but could be a little better. My wife had the breaded tenderloin and fries; I would say it was more like a fritter. The price was not bad but they should take tenderloin and bread it on site. It would cost a little more but a big jump in food taste and quality that customers would notice. I had the nachos and they were fine; I had the beef not the chicken. It was brought out on a plate stacked high. I would suggest using a bigger plate and a little more beef. That way youâ??re not eating just chips in the center with no topping. I think things like this would improve both dishes and make them worth the money. Running it like a restaurant with comedy and not a venue primarily comedy with food added in. They will need both to make it. By the way the waitress was fantastic!!!

    Eric
  • Just Went
    My wife and I went last weekend. We enjoyed ourselves very much. We did use a Zoo book coupon for BOGO but plan on going back soon without one. I would say the 10.00 per person admission fee is fine. The food was ok but could be a little better. My wife had the breaded tenderloin and fries; I would say it was more like a fritter. The price was not bad but they should take tenderloin and bread it on site. It would cost a little more but a big jump in food taste and quality that customers would notice. I had the nachos and they were fine; I had the beef not the chicken. It was brought out on a plate stacked high. I would suggest using a bigger plate and a little more beef. That way youâ??re not eating just chips in the center with no topping. I think things like this would improve both dishes and make them worth the money. Running it like a restaurant with comedy and not a venue primarily comedy with food added in. They will need both to make it. By the way the waitress was fantastic!!!

    Eric
  • Good luck
    I am a stand up comedy fan and I love Morty's. I hope you guys do well. I think Morty's has taped into a different demographic that no comedy club in Indy has. Unfortunately this demographic is cheap. I don't know how keeping the name Morty's is going to help them. It would seem it would harm them..... People are going to be looking for the free tickets and high price drinks. Good luck!
  • The thrill is gone...
    These are not the halcyon days of the eighties. Rising stars (Romano, Seinfeld, Leno, Cheech, et al)were supportive of the local seen "back in the day". These days, 'papering the house' is the norm, and it is a doomed practice - it just doesn't work.

    I established 5 successful clubs in three major markets over the years. These days, I'm in the automotive after market... Best wishes, but the thrill is gone.
  • Excited!
    Really happy this is happening. Sounds like some people who really know the business, not just people off the street!

    Good luck guys! Plan on coming by!
  • Success Will Happen!
    I believe that the new owners have a wonderfully creative attitude as well as a respect for the genre of comedy as an entertainment form. I know that I will definately be attending Morty's Comedy Club and will be encouraging my friends, family and work associates to do the same.
  • Third Time a Charm?
    I guess the new owners think a third time will work? Funny Bone, Morty's and now Morty's (take two). Good luck to them, but I don't see it working out if 2 others have failed in that same spot.
  • Good luck!
    I've been to Morty's on multiple occassions before they closed, saw a couple decent comics, and some not so funny ones as well. I'm not surprised they went out of business with the sky high price of drinks and substandard appetizers they offered. $6-8 for a soda without even 1 free refill is ridiculous for the people that don't drink! I'd rather pay a higher ticket price (for good comics) than have the venue obviously cheat people on drinks etc. because they don't have enough business sense to run their place.
  • Good luck
    Bowers said he's confident hios group can succeed. â??I never went to Mortyâ??s and saw a bad comic, which is one of the things I loved about it,â?? he said. â??We want to keep that mentality.â?? Really???? History will repeat itself then.

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  1. I am not by any means judging whether this is a good or bad project. It's pretty simple, the developers are not showing a hardship or need for this economic incentive. It is a vacant field, the easiest for development, and the developer already has the money to invest $26 million for construction. If they can afford that, they can afford to pay property taxes just like the rest of the residents do. As well, an average of $15/hour is an absolute joke in terms of economic development. Get in high paying jobs and maybe there's a different story. But that's the problem with this ask, it is speculative and users are just not known.

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  3. I don't have a problem with higher taxes, since it is obvious that our city is not adequately funded. And Ballard doesn't want to admit it, but he has increased taxes indirectly by 1) selling assets and spending the money, 2) letting now private entities increase user fees which were previously capped, 3) by spending reserves, and 4) by heavy dependence on TIFs. At the end, these are all indirect tax increases since someone will eventually have to pay for them. It's mathematics. You put property tax caps ("tax cut"), but you don't cut expenditures (justifiably so), so you increase taxes indirectly.

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