Club Rio has been a Moab fixture since the late 1980s. [Photo courtesy of Susan Baffico]

The only thing constant is change, so the expression goes.

As increasing pressures continue to influence the culture, infrastructure and physical landscape of the Moab area, change can feel more rapid than ever.

The Club Rio Sports Bar and Grill, established in the late 1980s, is choosing to adapt and bring history along with it.

Under the new added management of Scott Griffiths, the club at 2 S. 100 West is polishing rough edges and embracing rustic edginess to carry on the Moab of the past.

“It seems like anywhere you go, we are losing out on the old Moab,” Griffiths said. “New hotels (are) tripling their sizes. Fancy condos (are) replacing historic housing … (I want) to take us back to our roots and also grow at the same time.”

Griffiths is spearheading the reinvention of the sports bar to make it feel like an educational throwback to the days of old.

“‘The Rio’ means ‘the river,’ and we want to pay a tribute to it,” Griffiths said. “It is and always has been a lifeline to Moab.”

Griffiths spent several years guiding on the river for Red River Adventures, and is no stranger to the dynamic history and culture surrounding the sport. Lately he has been spending time in the Museum of Moab at 118 E. Center St., seeking out rustic photos on microfilm and diving into old Moab folklore.

“I’ve got a photo of the first power dam with a bunch of polygamists sitting on top of it,” he said. “And a photo that Eola Stocks took when she was a little girl in 1912.”

Griffiths is looking to track down, publish and frame old tales of local legends and to provide a space for guides, tourists and “old school” residents to learn and share.

Once the visitor season hits, a regular 5 p.m. happening at the Rio will project photography from Action Shots, as captured on the “daily” section of the Colorado River that day. Griffith recalls the buzz around Action Shots when he was guiding, and looks forward to bringing that to the Rio, where guides can grab a drink or a meal after work.

Manager Pat Flanigan came onboard with the Rio in 1998, and he considers the bar a constant fixture in Moab.

“We have watched our little town grow before our eyes,” Flanigan said.

Two years ago the Rio began offering a free shuttle service to help keep impaired drivers off the road. The service, which can be reached at 435-259-2654, operates on karaoke evenings (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and on weekends.  

On Thursday, April 6, patrons can expect karaoke in the midst of special guests, Pixie and the Partygrass Boys, as well as a range of other live performances.

The Rio is hosting the April 6 benefit for the Moab Grassroots Music Exchange (MGME).

Pixie and the Partygrass Boys have rocked MGME stages before, and the local organization said it is looking forward to the return of the “jazzy, folky, funky, bluegrassy” band from Salt Lake City.

According to its Facebook page, MGME maintains a platform for local, returning and aspiring artists to engage with the community of Moab “under great pressures of change.”

“This mission inherently engages, diversifies, and strengthens local culture, while embracing outside influences,” the page says.

The evening will kick off at 6 p.m. and be packed with both interactive and staged performances until last call – including fire dancing with Maegan Sellers and Elizabeth “Lizzy Bear” Jimenez – and acroyoga, which combines acrobatics and yoga.

Moab Swing Dance Community will be teaching a free beginner Jitterbug swing dance lesson from 7 to 8 p.m. to get things moving on the dance floor.

“Jitterbug is easy and fun to learn and it’s perfectly suited to the tunes Pixie and the Partygrass Boys are going to play,” said Kira Withrow of Moab Swing Dance.

MGME suggests a donation of $10 to $20.

Sports bar plans upgrades that embrace Moab’s past

For more information, or to get involved with the MGME fundraiser, go to: To check out Pixie and the Partygrass Boys go to For more information about the Rio, call 435-259-2654.

(I want) to take us back to our roots and also grow at the same time.