Los Angeles landmark Magic Castle has laid off almost all of its staff, as the spread of coronavirus affects businesses nationwide, Variety can exclusively report.
The members-only club pink slipped 189 employees on Saturday, insiders said, and will operate on a skeletal staff of nine to maintain the historic Hollywood clubhouse, which sits just behind the Dolby Theater on Franklin Avenue.
The club offers dinner and a rotating roster of headlining magic acts for guests. Showman Neil Patrick Harris is on the board of directors, and the venue has been featured in scripted content like Judd Apatow’s Netflix original “Love.” The chateau-style building was declared a cultural monument in 1989, and is run by a group called the Academy of Magical Arts.
“Amid these extraordinary circumstances, amid this disappointing and unsettling time, the Board of Directors has decided that we must lay off most of our employees due to the necessary closures. Letters from me went out this afternoon to our employees informing them of this fact. This will affect 189 employees,” Jim Steinmeyer, the president of the AMA, said in an email obtained by Variety.
Employees will receive two weeks salary and health benefits through July, the note continued. Spokespeople for Harris had no immediate comment on the matter.
The Magic Castle joins innumerable business affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the state of California put under a shelter-in-place mandate on Friday at the order of governor Gavin Newson. The clubhouse features the original bar from Barbra Streisand’s 1969 film “Hello, Dolly!” and has a seance room named for magician Harry Houdini, who haunts the premises, according to urban legend.
“When the club was closed, we did it offering two weeks of salary. Our employees have received one week of their salary, and will receive a second week. To be fair to them, we need to allow them to file for unemployment in a timely, efficient manner. In addition, following guidelines, our employees will be paid for unused vacation time,” the message continued.
“Of course, we are anxious to re-open the club, and hope that employees will be able to return when that happens. For days, we discussed possible plans to attempt to retain them, but none of these plans are practical under the circumstances,” Steinmeyer said.
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