When Cari Matyja took over the Club Rio in downtown Ely, she knew from the start that she wanted to do something different, something more than what the standard bar could offer.
“I wanted to keep it going so we could try to bring in a bunch of entertainment that you would otherwise never see here in Ely,” Matyja said.
After fixing everything from the leaky roof to the broken windows, the space was finally ready to start offering live entertainment with it’s large, side floor with a small stage and dance floor. Matyja got in touch with a talent agent and started to bring in a variety of musical acts, from country music singers to the the old school rap group 2 Live Crew.
To Matyja, it’s not the genre of music that matters, it’s the chance to see live entertainment in Ely that is the important part.
“It doesn’t really pay a lot to have acts come here because it costs a lot for them but I just wanted people to be able to see something new in town,” she said.
Born and raised in Ely, Matyja now sees owning a bar as her way to give back to the community that helped raise her by offering services no other bar in town will. For example, for last New Year’s Eve, Matyja offered patrons of all the bars in town rides home in her minivan so they wouldn’t have to drive while intoxicated or walk home in the cold weather. There was no charge for the service, it was just something she wanted to do because she was worried about the safety of those drinking and the other people on the roads. According to Matyja, the free rides were a hit.
“We had calls from a bunch of different places in town asking if we could take them home,” she said.
Matyja said that she plans on offering the rides again on special occasions, such as holidays, but that is just where her plans begin. She doesn’t believe that living in a small town means that its residents should be excluded from the fun atmosphere of seeing performers live.
“I’m working right now to try and get a comedy club themed night going,” the owner said.
And while she wouldn’t name any names since she is still in negotiations with different acts, she promised that she is working diligently to get bigger and bigger names in town. Those that haven’t been paying attention might be surprised to find out how successful she has already been.
“Last year we had a group that consisted of members from Foreigner, Poison and Great White,” Matyja said.
For all those other nights when the stage is vacant, Matyja again tried to offer something a bit different to get people to come out and have a good time. One of the ways Club Rio does this is through a weekly pool tournament held every Thursday at 8 p.m. Players that pay the $5 buy in can come out and compete on the billiards table against anyone else that shows up while enjoying happy hour prices on all their drinks. To Matyja, it’s the kind of thing she’d like to see more of in town.
“People come from all different skill levels and play for fun. I think it helps to offer something social to do in addition to just serving drinks.”
For more information about upcoming shows at Club Rio, call 775-289-6979 or visit the bar’s Facebook page.