Actor-turned-comedian Emily Ramirez is poised to get the zoning approvals she will need to buy the building at 7316 Madison St., Forest Park, and open a comedy club on its first-floor storefront.
BABS (short for Bad-Ass Bitches — a reference to a Saturday Night Live sketch) comedy club will offer comedy classes, host comedy shows and provide a space for comedy writers to hone their skills. It will only offer alcoholic drinks during the late evening comedy shows. Ramirez felt that, while drinks are an important part of watching a show, serving them all day would only lead to trouble. BABS will host family-friendly comedy shows on Sunday afternoons and raunchier acts on weekdays and Saturday evenings.
The storefront is currently home to the Studio 8 vintage décor and refurbished furniture store. Ramirez said the store has been operating on a month-to-month lease and, if the sales goes through, she will give them four months to transition. The sale is contingent on the village council approving a zoning change that will allow a comedy club to operate on Madison Street in the first place — something that the council is expected to take up on Aug. 14.
Ramirez launched BABS as a comedy event company that puts on shows and private events. She wanted to give comedians a professional environment with some protections she took for granted when she was an actress. Ramirez previously told this newspaper that she wanted to nurture the west suburban comedy scene and give local comics an opportunity to perform without having to travel to downtown Chicago and further-flung suburbs.
She previously said that, ideally, she and her husband wanted to buy a mixed-use building with apartments on a top floor and a storefront at the bottom. That way, she could live where she worked. Ramirez said the Studio 8 building would allow her to do that. If the sale goes through, she would eventually plan to move into one of the three second-story units and continue to rent out the remaining two.
But the first-floor commercial space would need to be cleared to make way for the comedy club — something that, Ramirez said, she wasn’t particularly happy about. She said that she looked for other buildings that would suit her needs and, when nothing materialized, she was somewhat relived to discover that Studio 8 owners have been prepared for a possible sale long before she made her offer — hence the month-to-month-lease.
Ramirez said she was in no hurry to kick them out.
“Even though we have a lot of work to do, I’m giving them four whole months, [until after] the Christmas holidays, to slowly be able to reduce their inventory and give them as many sales as possible, just so they don’t have to rush out the building,” she said.
While negotiating the sale, Ramirez discovered that, technically speaking, comedy clubs weren’t a permitted use on Madison Street. On July 17, Forest Park Planning & Zoning Commission recommended changing the zoning code to make it a conditional use and accepting Ramirez’s application for said conditional use. The sale is contingent on the village council approving both items.
If those items clear the council, Ramirez said she expects the sale to be completed in September. She is also in the process of applying for a liquor license.
The conditional use application states that, while BABS would open at noon, alcohol wouldn’t be served until after 7 p.m. Ramirez said that not only did she want to allay the possible concerns of neighbors, but she felt that serving alcohol all day just wasn’t a good idea — citing Forest Park Tap Room, which used to be located almost directly across the street from the Studio 8 building, as an example of what she wanted to avoid.
“The longer you’re imbibing alcohol, the more likely you are to have some rowdiness,” she said.
BABS will be open Wednesdays through Sundays. On most afternoons, the club will serve as an Open Writer’s Room, where comedians can come and work on their material. The club will host comedy classes — which, Ramirez said, would be based on what she and her friends learned in the classroom and through trial and error — on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., with shows taking place later in the evening. Sunday would be an all-ages day, with family-friendly comedy shows taking place during the afternoons, and teen open mics in the evenings.
“Our goal is to have a soft opening in the late summer of next year and have a grand opening in the fall of 2024,” Ramirez said. “[Fall] is typically the beginning of the comedy season, when people start going back indoors.”