Community rallies to keep The Rhythm Room afloat during COVID-19 pandemic

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Posted at 4:40 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 19:47:18-05

PHOENIX — Thanks to the generosity of the community, the owner of The Rhythm Room, a popular blues venue in Phoenix, is able to stay afloat and pay his bills.

The music venue hasn't made any money since it closed its doors in March because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. On a typical night, you would often hear the sounds of blues music as local artists and traveling bands took to the stage.

Owner Bob Corritore, a musician himself, opened the club 29 years ago.

Since the pandemic, he has received some financial relief from the government, but that money was spent and the bills have begun piling again.

"We owed back sales tax, and property tax is coming due and things like that," he told ABC15.

Last week, he realized that he had to do something to keep his place open. He made a GoFundMe account, a way to ask the community to help support him, and set a goal of $15,000.

In four days, his campaign has received more than $35,000 in donations.

"It means oxygen, it means I can breathe," said Corritore, of the donations. "People are putting in donations from $5 to $5,000. It's been unbelievable, and every one of those counts; it's really beautiful."

Barbara Ornelas and Steve Hughey are two of the many people who donated and consider themselves to be regulars at the club. Ornelas said she would sometimes travel up from Tucson to catch a show.

"It's brought me so much joy. I've met many friends there, and a lot of the musicians I've seen there have become lifelong friends. And I just wanted to support the place that really gave me happiness," she said.

Hughey said he and his wife would go to several dozen shows a year.

"You can see people that are on their way up. You can see people who used to be at arenas and now they play at Bob's and they bring in their friends," he said.

Corritore said he's felt isolated over the past few months because he hasn't been able to host musicians or even perform himself at his club. But, he feels the love from his community and he's especially grateful.

"You're like, 'I hope people still want the rhythm room I hope it's still relevant,' and to have this need, having such a great amount of support, it's very reaffirming. It really shows me that what we're doing has meaning," he said.

The Rhythm Room remains closed, but Corritore said he hopes to reopen sometime next summer if it's safe to do so. Next September, his club celebrates 30 years in business.