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It’s the final curtain for legendary Times Square comedy club Carolines on Broadway, which announced late Tuesday that its last show will be on New Year’s Eve — but made a promise to be back in action in the future. Owner Caroline Hirsch said the end of 30 years of history at the venue was caused by the building owner seeking a much higher rent.
“After 30 wonderful years at our location in Times Square, we have decided not to renew our lease. Our final shows here will be on December 31,” the venue’s Instagram account posted. Founder Hirsch told the New York Post that the landlord of the 300-seat space at 750 7th Avenue between W49th and W50th Street felt that “they could get a lot more for the space.” The building is currently owned by Fosterlane management, a Kuwaiti wealth fund.
“This is heart-stabbing for me,” she told the Post. “I love my staff. I love my comedians. I’m onto something new.” Stand-up comedians and patrons alike mourned the news of the landmark club’s closure, with Broadway, film, TV, and comedy mainstay David Alan Grier commenting “Noooooooo?!” and Two Dope Queens alum Phoebe Robinson writing: “Wow. You’re where I got my start! Took a standup class in 2008 and it changed my life. Thank you for everything!”
Originally opened as a small club in Chelsea in 1982, the venue quickly began booking future superstars like Jerry Seinfeld, Rosie O’Donnell, Billy Crystal and Jay Leno, later moving to the South Street Seaport before settling in Times Square in 1992 — when, as the club’s statement put it, “many New Yorkers and businesses had written off Times Square and NYC overall, due to high crime and a lack of proactive government solutions.
“People thought we were crazy to invest in Times Square,” they continued, “only later to say that we were ahead of the curve when global brands like Disney, Nasdaq and national retailers and businesses came to the neighborhood. We are very proud to have played an integral role in its resurgence and brought much-needed laughter to the neighborhood and the city.”
Hirsch was honored by the city’s leaders this summer at the announcement of the New York Comedy Festival’s post-lockdown relaunch, which was produced by Carolines. Speaking of her impact on the comedy industry and Midtown’s entertainment landscape at large, NYC Go President Fred Dixon said: “She helped shepherd in the new era of Times Square in a remarkable way.” Mayor Eric Adams even declared August 16 “Caroline Hirsch Day”, adding: “There has been nothing funny about the last two and a half years, but there’s scientific evidence that connects laughing with our friends and family — and Caroline, you’ve really saved us during this time.”
But while the Midtown club will shutter in 2023, it may not be closing time for the Carolines brand — Hirsch told the New York Post that she planned to expand Carolines and the New York Comedy festival elsewhere. “I see this as not the end of Carolines, but a new chapter continuing to produce world-class comedy.”
The venue’s statement went on to thank “the comedians, our incredibly talented staff and all of the comedy fans who have visited the club throughout the years to help make Carolines the success it has been for the past four decades.”