Pete Apicella

I heard the Rio – Club Rio, to be more exact – is closing.

In a casual conversation, I heard that a local businessman bought the place and is converting the Rio into a family-friendly BBQ joint. So it goes.

I certainly support the addition of a new eatery in town, but with the closing of Frankie D’s a few years ago, and now losing the Rio, Moab will be left with only one late-night adult music venue/dance floor/bar. And that remaining bar seems to be one giant flashflood away from being swept down Mill Creek.

I am saddened by knowing this. As hotel rooms and traffic expand, our music venues and evening gathering spaces diminish. Whether one enjoys alcohol or not, and whether one enjoys the decor or not, our two dive bars are great places for people of all types to meet and mingle: climbers, hikers, jeepers, boaters, hippies, rednecks, snowbirds, Broncos fans, Europeans, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, waiters, room cleaners, etc.

These spaces act as social equalizers among the working people of Moab to befriend each other and unwind after a hard work shift serving tourists.

Moab’s two bars are also the only venues where a legitimate band or DJ can perform until 1 p.m. at a decent volume, providing a quality cut-loose performance for the people. I thank Zax, BluPig, Eddie’s, Peace Tree, Atomic, The Parlor and other venues for hosting live music as an auxiliary to dinner guests, but none of these establishments offer dance space or entertainment after 10:30 p.m.

I also thank the Moab MusicFest and FolkFest for bringing super high-quality acts to our town with the infusion of event sponsors and public funding, but yet again, neither of these events offer late-night dance space either. Many of these performances are often geared to a demographic that wants to sit down, legs folded, and applaud politely between songs. That’s awesome and much appreciated, but doesn’t have quite the same energized rowdiness.

Amplified music in our rustic desert bars creates a certain energized, fun immediacy that supports Moab’s younger people. It’s a valued and loved part of our town’s culture.

As both a fan and creator of arts and music, I wonder how only one bar can support the entire flow of musicians and dancers that desire to play in growing Moab. This year’s Orange Party was a super fun but very crowded experience, reminding us that even two bars can’t contain people who want to dance in Moab. It’s slightly embarrassing knowing that nearby Telluride, a village a fraction of the size of Moab, has a way more poppin’ music scene in both summer and winter.

Live bands and DJs can make a little money here or at least break even when given a chance. Moab has a super-responsive, eclectic, and enthusiastic audience which performers frequently cite as a really fun aspect of our diverse community. People here are less concerned about looking cool or staying just within one’s own clique.

There is definitely an opportunity for other Moab establishments to step up their late-night entertainment offerings to fill this emergent vacuum, but I scratch my head as to which one.

I certainly do not have the extra multi-millions in my bank account to build and open a marquee music/eating/drinking establishment that would serve this much-desired public need. But if I did, I would.

I wish a member of Utah’s business owner-class would see the lucrative market for such a space and act accordingly. This type of entrepreneur would be locally celebrated as a generator of cultural capital and social space, and stand to profit as well. In the interim, I would encourage the new owner to keep whatever Club Rio turns into open after 10 p.m. for adults only and host live music.

Pete Apicella lives in Moab.

“As hotel rooms and traffic expand, our music venues and evening gathering spaces diminish.”

– Pete Apicella