Two former Jokers employees, Bobby Quiring and Trudi Corbett, are opening a comedy club called the Elbow Room in the old Jack-sons Sports Bar building in Kennewick.
Dante, a former winner of television's Last Comic Standing, will be the featured act when the 21-and-older club opens to the public today. Cover charge is $10 at the door.
Quiring, 45, has worked in the entertainment business for more than 25 years, but always for someone else.
He moved to the Tri-Cities six years ago to run Jokers comedy club in Richland for Atomic Operations, based in Wenatchee. He quit in January this year because one of the owners of that establishment wanted to get more involved with running the comedy, edging him out of his job a bit more than he wanted to be.
"I have a passion for this business. I'm good at it and I made good money running Jokers," he said. "I feel I made that club successful, so when the new owner want to get more involved, I decided it's time to move on and open my own club."
Opening your own business is a scary decision, but something he now believes he should have done long ago. He figures his total investment in getting it off the ground will be about $250,000.
"It's tough to get a small business loan anymore, even though both of us have excellent credit," Quiring said. "So Trudi and I decided to finance this venture with credit cards and our combined $100,000 savings.
"Sure, it's a little spooky to open a business, but I felt like I needed to stand for something on my own," he said. "People love comedy clubs and I really like living here in the Tri-Cities. So when the Jackson's building became available, we jumped on it."
Corbett, 51, has 20 years in the restaurant business. She feels her partnership with Quiring is a match made in heaven, she said.
"He's the marketing guy and he's very good at it," Corbett said. "I'm good at organizing. So he'll work out front and I'll make sure the back end runs efficiently."
Quiring learned the importance of customer service a long time ago when he worked at clubs in California, he said.
"I grew up in Fresno in a poor family and decided to move out on my own while I was still in high school," he said. "I learned to be very self-reliant and taught myself to get off my (butt) and be responsible. I found a cheap studio apartment, finished high school then went to Fresno City College. "
In 1994, he started an advertising business that made poster art to hang in public restrooms. He sold the business in 1998 and moved to Clarkston, Wash., where he worked different jobs until offered the Jokers Comedy Club gig.
"I believe people like to have a good time, and that it's my job to make sure they have a good time," Quiring said. "That's why I love this business."
The Elbow Room will employ about 15 people. Hours are 3 p.m. to midnight Monday through Wednesday and 3 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. The club will be closed on Sundays.
Eleven monitors around the nightclub will play music videos in all genres, with DJ music on selected nights. The full-service bar will also serve microbrews on tap. All other beer will be sold in bottles. Ladies nights will be Thursdays. And a food menu also will be available.
Quiring plans to have a reasonable dress code, as well. Guys will be required to wear collared shirts. He'll have several sizes on hand for men to borrow on arrival should they forget the dress code, he said.
"I figure if collared shirts are worn, maybe it will set the tone that The Elbow Room caters to mature behavior only," Quiring said.
Quiring plans to open more Elbow Rooms in other cities across the country once this one is established.
"I'm very excited to have Dante back to open this club," Quiring said. "He is not just a funny guy, he's a good friend. When he and Rebekah were at Jokers a couple years ago, they stuck around after the show and actually helped clean up. Both of them are just good people and they have a lot of fans here."
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dorioneal